The defection of the last Watford Conservative councillor, Steve Johnson, to the Liberal Democrat group this week saw the end of the party’s presence on the borough council.

The decline and eventual demise of the borough Conservatives in has been a slow and gradual affair that has coincided with the rise of the now ruling Lib Dems.

Back in 1991, the Conservatives were the second largest party on Watford Borough Council with 11 councillors and were the main opposition to the authority’s Labour administration.

At this time the Liberal Democrats were still a nascent force with only three representatives on the council.

Over the next nine years the Conservatives’ holdings were slowly chipped away until only seven councillors remained in 2002.

But even then the Conservatives were still well entrenched in their heartlands. In 2002 Robert Gordon, now leader of Hertfordshire County Council, was returned in Nascot with a majority of 392 votes and Tim Williams, a former group leader, was elected in Park with a 412 majority.

Yet the next decade saw the Liberal Democrats make inroads into these safe Conservative wards.

By 2011, Conservatives held only two of the six seats in Park and Nascot.

Last year the Liberal Democrats completed their takeover of Nascot when former group leader Andrew Mortimer was ousted by Councillor Mark Hofman.

This left the Conservatives with just two seats, in Park and Leggatts.

In July, the Conservatives jettisoned their last seat in Park when Councillor Malcolm Meerabux was ejected from the party making him an independent.

He had been thrown out of the Conservative group once before in 2011 due to a row over letters he was sending to the Watford Observer, but was later readmitted.

His second expulsion came after in-fighting with Councillor Steve Johnson and other members of the Watford Conservative Association in the wake of poor 2012 election results.

Councillor Meerabux’s exit left Councillor Johnson as the sole Conservative and effectively ended it as a political group on the council.

Councillor Johnson first won his Leggatts seat in a 2009 by-election with a slender 45 majority, which he increased in 2010 to 103.

In the intervening years Labour has won two of the ward’s three seats and, in 2012, the Conservative vote collapsed in Leggatts to 179 – leaving the party in fourth place behind the Greens. The signs did not auger well for the one remaining Conservative’s re-election hopes in 2014.

Councillor Johnson’s defection this week was the killing stroke to a Conservative group that had been in electoral decline for two decades.

However, it seems to have only quickened an inevitable end.