The political landscape in Herefordshire remains shrouded in uncertainty, 12 days following the local elections, as the question of who will steer the council's helm remains unanswered.
David Hitchiner, the previous council leader, reflected on a similar state of ambiguity from four years ago. Despite his Independents for Herefordshire emerging as the largest group, he recalled, "both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives declined our offer for cabinet positions, stuck in a mindset of 'all or nothing'."
Despite this, Hitchiner proposed a unity government, "a cabinet of all the talents", bringing together members from Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Green, and Independent groups.
The LibDems, having doubled their representation to 12 seats, seem poised to influence the council's trajectory. However, leader Terry James criticised the council's current mode of operation, labelling the cabinet-based decision-making process as an "elected dictatorship" due to the lack of consultation with ordinary members.
This view was challenged by independent councillor Jim Kenyon, who labelled the LibDems' proposal to revert to a committee-based decision system as "hare-brained". He recalled it being "conclusively voted against" when previously put to members.
Kenyon suggested the Conservatives, who are the largest group with 21 seats, "should have first go at forming an administration". However, he was quick to add, "I don't want to be part of it."
Clarity should emerge this coming Friday when all 53 councillors convene to elect a new council leader, who will subsequently form a cabinet.
Dan Hurcomb, North Herefordshire Conservatives chairman and new member for Bircher ward, anticipates a close call, stating his party "is keeping its options open" and that the outcome could "go down to the wire".
The Greens, now the third-largest party with nine seats, also remain open to collaboration, according to their leader, Ellie Chowns.
Bob Matthews, leader of the True Independents, whose numbers dwindled to three in the recent election, lamented, "A lot of experienced councillors have gone. I don't know what's going to happen now. This is not good for the council, which is not in a good situation."
As the political dust settles, Herefordshire residents can only wait and see how this intricate game of political chess unfolds.