Election 2008: Coalition on cards again as Gosport Lib Dems close gap

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DELIGHTED Gosport Lib Dems shortened the gap between themselves and the Conservatives last night.

But they will still need the support of Labour to push policies through council.

Today the make-up of the council stood at 16 Conservative members, four Labour and 14 Lib Dems.

Before last night the council was already hung – with 17 Conservatives, eight Labour and nine Lib Dems.

A Lib Dem/Lab coalition plus a deciding vote by Lib Dem mayor Keith Gill meant the Tories were denied power.

But Lib Dem leader Dave Smith refused to confirm another coalition was on the cards.

He said: 'We'll have to see what happens. There will be a meeting next week.'

He added: 'Personally, I am very pleased to have won the seat and would like to thank all the people who voted for me.

'What I think is going to be interesting is who is going to take the chair of the council?

'That's going to be very interesting. Will the Conservatives throw their toys out of the pram again? Will they take the chair?'

Although the Tories have more councillors than any other party, last year they refused to take control of the council because the deciding vote on issues fell to the mayor, Keith Gill.

Conservative leader Mark Hook said the Conservatives would be deciding their next move over the coming weeks.

He added: 'We are delighted we held 10 out of 17 seats. We knew it was going to be difficult defending that many seats. But we hope to increase our numbers in two years' time.'

Meanwhile Labour was licking its wounds last night – the party lost Rowner and Holbrook as well as Bridgemary North and Bridgemary South to the Conservatives, and Forton to the Liberal Democrats.

Labour leader Sean Culley refused to comment on the loss – as did outgoing Rowner and Holbrook candidate John Train.

Former Gosport Borough Labour councillor Martyn Davis said: 'It's disappointing. There's a national swing and there's nothing we can do about that.

'The Labour party locally has worked very hard and they've been very effective in managing the council in difficult circumstances.'