Tories fall short of overall majority

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CountyHall by p2-r2

The Conservative Party looks set to retain control of Oxfordshire County Council after gaining 31 of the 63  seats on offer.

This  leaves the party just one councillor short of an overall majority, and reluctant to enter a coalition with any other party, making a Conservative minority administration likely.

This however  is the first time that no party has had overall control of Oxfordshire council since 2005.

Labour’s gain of eight seats returned it to the position of Oxfordshire’s primary opposition party with a total of 15 councillors, while also maintaining its strong hold on the Oxford City Council. .

However, group leader Liz Brighouse dismissed the idea of entering a coalition with either the Conservatives or other minority parties, claiming: “We can argue for our manifesto commitments from the official opposition benches.”

This is despite calls from the Green Party to form a “rainbow coalition” of all the minority parties in order to form a majority.

The four wards largely inhabited by Oxford students returned candidates from parties to the left of the political spectrum.   University Parks and Iffley Field & St Maries elected Oxfordshire’s only Green councillors while Jericho & Osney and St Clements & Cowley returned Labour representatives.

Jon Mayo,  a Keble second year who supported Sam Coates, the Green Party candidate for University Parks, commented: “I was impressed by [Sam Coates’] manifesto commitments to oppose welfare cuts and eradicate anti-immigration rhetoric in Oxford.  I’m pleased he was elected.”

Liberal Democrats also achieved success gaining three councillors, defying their negative national trend. Spokesman Neil Fawcett welcomed the idea of entering a coalition, stating: “We’re open to working with any party, provided it brings stability to the running of the council.”

The success of the Lib Dems was also recognised by other parties, with OULC co-chair elect Aled Jones arguing: “The Labour party must not be complacent when it comes to the Liberal Democrats, and as the recent results have shown, it is important to ensure that the Liberal Democrats are held to account for their actions in Government.”

The Greens were unable to retake the three seats they lost in 2009, despite Oxford being seen as a traditionally strong area for the party.

Friday also saw Oxford UKIP unable to replicate the gain in seats achieved by the party nationally. Despite fielding 52 candidates compared with 16 in 2009, not a single UKIP member was elected to the County Council.

UKIP candidate Stuart O’Reilly, a first-year historian at Pembroke College, dismissed suggestions that this represented a failure for the party in the county.

“Proper analysis of the evidence shows that we took votes from all parties as well as from voters who have not voted for years,” he said.

He went on: “We came second in 21 divisions and third in a further 21. Clearly we have made major inroads since 2009.”

However, Jones stated that the UKIP result was indicative of resistance to their policies from Oxford residents: “I am glad to see that the good people of Oxfordshire have realised that UKIP, despite how many pints Nigel Farage drinks in front of a photographer, is still a party that is never far from being nasty and never close to being sensible.”

The structure of the administration will be finally decided before the first council meeting next Tuesday.

This election saw the total number of seats fall from 74 to 63 as a result of boundary changes.