THE progressive alliance looks to have strengthened its grip on the council following a dramatic election night in Colchester.

Before Thursday’s votes Colchester’s Conservative group was lacking an overall majority on the council by just one seat, however two shock losses saw them slip further away from power.

In Castle ward, Tory leader Darius Laws lost out to respected community campaigner and Green Party candidate Mark Goacher.

Sam McCarthy also took Shrub End back from the Tories for the Lib Dems, bringing an end to a disappointing night for the Conservatives.

The party now have 23 seats on the council, compared to 25 before the night began.

A visibly emotional Darius Laws said he was extremely disappointed to lose his seat.

He said: “I am disappointed on a personal level and I am disappointed for my colleagues.

“The Conservatives will remain the largest single party and we will remain a strong and credible opposition.

“I remain committed to the town I adore and have chosen to make my life in.

“It is wildly different from this time last year where we made significant gains - for me that is a reflection of the national picture.”

It was a much better night for the Lib Dems who cemented their place as the main opposition party in Colchester. They now hold 13 seats on the council.

Council leader Mark Cory (Lib Dem) said the coalition parties would enter negotiations over the coming days.

He said: “I think the hard work from all of our candidates has shown through.

“In Shrub End we have won with a young candidate and in St Anne’s and St John’s we have held on to the seat with a respected community campaigner.

“I am sure we will be having talks with the other parties in the coalition and I am more than happy to speak to Mark Goacher and the Green Party.

“I think we have worked hard to turn around public opinion with the council and make some good new policies.”

Mr Cory won his Wivenhoe seat with a landslide majority of more than 1,500 votes - receiving four times the amount of his nearest rival, 18-year-old Harry Nathan.

Following the results, he thanked the people of Wivenhoe for their support.

“I love my ward and I think people can see that,” he said.

“If I had lost I would have lost a little part of me.”

The Labour Party held on to its three seats which were up for election.

However its vote share in several of the 17 wards decided on the night was down.

Before the results were counted, party bosses were confident of taking New Town and Christchurch from the Lib Dems, however Elisa Vasquez-Walters lost out to incumbent candidate and next year’s mayor Nick Cope.

Labour leader and deputy leader of the council Tim Young said: “I am pretty exhausted and slightly disappointed we did not make any gains but we have consolidated our position.

“The Labour group will still play an important role in the coalition.”

Mr Young left the door open for Mark Goacher to join the rainbow coalition, which could have 28 seats if he decided to join.

He said: “We will have to open discussions over the weekend with our coalition partners. I would be happy to speak to Mark and see what he wants to say.”

Mr Young added he believed national politics had an effect on the party’s results.

“Brexit was an issue on the doorstep and our position needs to be clearer and I think that had an effect,” he said.

“But once people started speaking about local issues I think we won them over.

“I think the Tories’ strategy of saying they were one seat from taking the council backfired because they are now three seats away from that.

“People saw the idea of a Conservative council and said ‘no thanks’.”

The coalition’s Highwoods Independents still have three seats on the council as Beverly Oxford held on the to her seat in the ward.

See how the night unfolded here.