Former leader Dave Stewart lost his Chale, Niton and Shorwell seat on Friday, when votes cast in the Isle of Wight Council election were counted.

Speaking to the County Press outside Medina Leisure Centre, where the count took place, he thanked council staff and party colleagues and said he had been 'fortunate' to have had the opportunity to lead the local authority.

The Conservative lost to The Green Party's Claire Critchison, in a head-to-head race, after an overall Isle of Wight turnout of just over 36 per cent, on Thursday, May 6.

Mr Stewart won 636 votes, to Cllr Critchison's 876.

This year, she overturned her 2017 deficit (Dave Stewart: 791 votes; Claire Critchison: 313 votes; Wendy Loader (Labour): 80 votes, in 2017) to swing the rural West Wight seat from blue, to green.

Dave Stewart said he was "obviously disappointed" because he would have liked to have done more for the community, but offered his congratulations to Cllr Critchison.

He said: "I've had the fortunate position of leading the Isle of Wight Council - something I've enjoyed.

"In that time I've taken it, in my view, with the team I had, from being nearly bankrupt to a financially stable position.

"We had the pandemic drop on us and I worked with partners everywhere to take us through that.

"I'm pleased that we have come through that and I've now got to the next stage in my career - including redecorating my hall!"

In the national vote, the Conservative party made sweeping gains.

On the Island, the party lost its majority - taking 18 of the 39 seats available at County Hall and falling short of the 20, which would have given it control.

Talks are now underway to work out how the local authority will move forward.

Dave Stewart said: "As often happens, the Isle of Wight's bucked the trend.

"At a personal level, there are more people that would rather have somebody else represent them.

"I'm very democratically minded, so if that's what they want then I certainly don't want to stand in their way and they've got change now, so that's fine.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The first ballot box being opened on Friday morning.

He conceded his position even before the final results were declared (due to a problem with a handful of postal ballots that needed to be double checked, holding up the proceedings.)

He said he had seen that Cllr Critchison was already well ahead and was quick to wish her well: "Claire Critchison's been very successful.

"She's got a result and this is the start of her career as an Isle of Wight councillor and I wish well her with it."

Acknowledging that the two horse race in his ward may have been a tactical move, he said: "I was the leader and I was there to be hit.

"We've got a fantastic team, so the game is certainly not over yet."

Dave Stewart thanked officers, workers and fellow party members: "My message to council staff, is fantastic work!

"Very professional in a difficult situation, with all the Covid-19 issues.

"I thank all the staff, particularly the leading team that I worked closely with, for supporting me as leader and I wish them well for the future."

"And to the other Conservative members, carry on, good luck, keep going and all the best!"