The Isle of Wight Council has a new leader and Cllr Phil Jordan has taken control at County Hall, in Newport.

Both the Alliance Group's Cllr Jordan and the Conservative Group's leader, Cllr Suzie Ellis, were in the running for the empty seat.

A named vote was held, at the request of Cllr Ian Stephens, himself a former leader.

After a vote, there was a tie, with 19 votes apiece and an abstention by Cllr Karl Love. It was broken by chair Cllr Claire Critchison, who voted Cllr Jordan as the new leader.

Isle of Wight County Press: County Hall, where tonight's meeting has been taking place.County Hall, where tonight's meeting has been taking place. (Image: Isle of Wight County Press.)

Ahead of the decision, Cllr Paul Brading, proposer for Cllr Ellis, said: "Since Cllr Ellis became leader, she has shown a really clear leadership style. She's happy and comfortable dealing with everyone."

He accused the Alliance of failing to deliver on pace, urgency and decision-making ability.

Cllrs Ellis and Jordan both chose not to comment, saying they were happy to go to the vote.

How did we get here?

Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox, who represents Cowes Medina, was elected as leader of the Isle of Wight Council in May 2021, when she won by 20 votes to 18 and defeated then leader of the Conservatives, Cllr Steve Hastings.

She stepped aside earlier this month, after a series of challenges, including a widely-criticised U-turn by the administration on proposals to close schools to cut empty spaces in classrooms, and the loss of education and children's services partner, Hampshire County Council.

Meanwhile, a motion of no confidence was dropped, after Cllr Peacey-Wilcox announced her resignation plans. She remained leader until 6pm tonight.

Who was in the running?

Cllr Suzie Ellis was appointed Conservative Group leader in July.

Isle of Wight County Press: County Hall chamber, on Wednesday.County Hall chamber, on Wednesday. (Image: IW Council.)

She has represented Central Rural ward since 2021 – a role she combines with running her own business.

Cllr Phil Jordan's nomination was made by Cllr Peacey-Wilcox, seconded by Cllr Michael Lilley.

Recently, he has been lead councillor for transport and infrastructure and oversaw the deal agreed on the Floating Bridge.

He was convicted of drink driving in 2016, prompting a break from his role at County Hall, before his 2021 return.

What was said?

In comments before the vote, Cllr John Medland, from the breakaway Empowering Islanders group, said he feared tonight's vote was a last chance to save the Isle of Wight Council, in the current financial crisis. He supported Cllr Ellis.

Conservative, Cllr Tig Outlaw, said the Alliance Group's handling of school place planning had been the reason for his decision to support Cllr Ellis. He said Conservatives would 'do the right thing. Even it is unpopular."

Cllr Chris Jarman, who used to sit on the Alliance's leadership, also threw his weight behind Cllr Ellis.

Labour's Cllr Richard Quigley, from Cowes, accused the Conservatives of sitting on the school closure decision for a year before the Alliance even took charge. 

Sandown Conservative, Cllr Ian Ward, thanked Cllr Peacey-Wilcox and called for other members to do the same, but said more should have been done by the Alliance.

Chair, Cllr Claire Critchison, said the outgoing leader had requested her colleagues did not speak up to mark her departure as leader.

Supporting Cllr Phil Jordan, Cllr Andrew Garratt, a Liberal Democrat representing Parkhurst, said he "looked to where I see Liberal principles best delivered,' adding he was appalled by an earlier Conservative decision to cut council tax support.

Isle of Wight County Press: Cllr Suzie Ellis.Cllr Suzie Ellis. (Image: IWCP.)

Alliance member, Binstead and Fishbourne's Cllr Ian Dore, said: "Please can we focus in what we are given our allowance to do - represent our wards." He accused the Conservatives of previously failing his ward, citing serious flooding that saw 21 homes deluged.

In response, Cllr Clare Mosdell said: "Some of us are political with a big P and some are political with a small p." She said she agreed with some of the comments made by the Alliance's East Cowes councillor Cllr Karl Love.

The independent and Alliance member, who formerly led Adult Social Care but stepped aside in May, warned he might have to make a decision he did not want to make, saying: "We have all failed. We should be pulling together. We have returned to party tribal politics." 

Cllr Love's abstention required the chair to break the deadlock, with her vote confirming Cllr Jordan's position.

Cllr Geoff Brodie, who is a self-titled independent Labour representative, from Pan and Barton, said he had 'never abstained on an important political vote', adding he would not vote for a Conservative, though he called Cllr Ellis 'tremendous'.  

"I'll do my best"

Speaking later, the new leader, Cllr Jordan said he had not prepared anything, adding the Alliance had made a around 50 executive decisions, saying the group was 'trying to do the best for our Island'.

He pledged to try to work across County Hall's chamber and said his administration would address the key issues, and said he would 'do his best' for the authority.