Bradford Council was left leaderless today as Ian Greenwood lost his Little Horton seat after 17 years preventing Labour from taking overall control for the first time since 1999.
It took four recounts before the Labour leader finally accepted defeat by the tiny margin of just 17 votes to the Respect candidate, Alyas Karmani.
With his seat the last to declare, Labour needed just one more victory to put it in the driving seat.
In the event, it was left with 45 seats – an increase of two – but exactly half of the 90 seats on the Council, meaning that it will have to form an alliance with another party to stay in power.
However, Labour may yet have an ace up its sleeve because Councillor Imdad Hussain – who was not up for re-election this time – was suspended by the Regional Labour Party from his Heaton seat before the election after it emerged he had been disqualified as a company director for seven years after his company went into liquidation last year.
He is currently listed as an “Independent” councillor and the Labour party apparently believes that he will continue to vote with the party whether or not he is reinstated following the current investigation into his situation.
Before yesterday’s ballot of one third of the Council, the Green party had held the balance and – if Labour can’t rely on Imdad Hussain – may well do again but that will be a decision for whoever the Labour party chooses as its new leader.
Even if they failed to turn George Galloway’s “Bradford Spring” into Greenwood’s Labour Dawn, the party made enough gains on the back of the national wave of protests against the Coalition’s austerity measures to keep Respect from holding the balance of power.
Respect had put up candidates in 12 Bradford seats with George Galloway confidently predicting up to eight gains. In the event, they took just five.
The results meant that Respect’s hopes of the Bradford West by-election result bouncing them into a position where they held the balance of power turned as cold as the forecast for the bank holiday weekend weather.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats each finished the night with three fewer seats, on 24 and eight seats respectively, with the Greens remaining on three and five seats in the hands of independents.
Coun Greenwood said: "I am sad to lose obviously but I've been a politican for very many years and some elections you win and some you lose.
"The people can deliver you in to office and they can take that away, and I think all politicians should treat that with the humility that's appropriate.
"From the moment the by-election result was declared it was clear to me that I had a fight on my hands. I've never taken it for granted - I fought a hard campaign and it was unsucessful.
"The issue I have with this situation is that Mr Galloway and his colleagues have made an awful lot of promises, particularly to young people in the district, that I am not convinced they are going to be able to deliver and that bodes ill for the future in my view."
The result saw Respect's Alyas Karmani poll 2,191 votes followed by Coun Greenwood on 2,174.
Elsewhere, the next Lord Mayor of Bradford, Wharfedale Councillor Dale Smith, polled 2,252 votes, with Labour’s Dave Allen his closest rival with 694. Coun Smith said: “I am delighted. I had not assumed I would win as there is always a tension in local elections.” He said voters in Wharfedale were “anxious” about protecting the green belt from development, adding: “We recognise the need for affordable housing but we are concerned about the connectivity with places where there are jobs in Leeds and Bradford.”