LABOUR has "cheated democracy" and seized control of Thurrock Council.

At a dramatic meeting of the full council tonight Labour's John Kent was elected as leader after securing 25 votes to Tory leader Garry Hague's 23.

Labour, which had 22 seats to the Conservatives' 23 after the local elections on Friday May 7, was able to gain control with backing from BNP councillor Emma Colgate and former Conservative group member Stuart St Clair Haslam, who quit the group earlier this week.

Outgoing leader Garry Hague said: "Had we failed at the local elections we would have been magnanimous in defeat, but we were sucessful.

"Democracy has been cheated, the people of Thurrock have been cheated.

"The people of Thurrock have lost a council they actually wanted and voted for at the ballot box."

New leader John Kent said:"To be leader of Thurrock Council is really pretty humbling and quite daunting, but I am absolutely relishing the task ahead.

"I hope that over the coming months I can prove that I am more than capable of moving Thurrock forward."

Cllr Anne Cheale, who last week formed the "Concerned Conservatives Group" with cllr St Clair Haslam, was elected as the Mayor of Thurrock, defeating Tory deputy mayor Eddie Hardiman by one vote, thanks to BNP councillor Emma Colgate.

But councillor Hardiman, who joked that he was "always the bridesmaid but never the bride" was re-elected as deputy mayor after Emma Colgate chose to support him instead of Labour's candidate for the job councillor Yash Gupta.

For a full interview with BNP councillor Emma Colgate explaining the reasons behind her voting, check next weeks Gazette.