Conservatives win UK election, opposition leaders quit

Conservatives win UK election, opposition leaders quit
Conservatives win 331 seats, a House of Commons majority of 12

Britain’s center-right Conservative Party won the U.K. general election with an overall majority on Friday.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband resigned as his party suffered devastating loses in Scotland at the hands of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg also quit following severe election losses while U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage stood down as his party secured one seat.

Friday’s results showed an outcome unpredicted in pre-election opinion polls, with the Conservatives showing an unexpected level of success and Labour and the Liberal Democrats left devastated by what many observers said was the biggest surprise in a general election since 1945.

Prime Minister David Cameron is the first Conservative leader to form a majority Conservative government in 23 years and the first to increase his party’s share of the vote after more than 18 months in power since 1900.

“We will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom,” Cameron said in a victory speech at Downing Street.

“That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country from north to south, from east to west, and indeed it means rebalancing our economy, building that northern powerhouse,” he said.

“It means bringing together the different nations of our United Kingdom.”

The Conservatives won 331 seats, a majority of 12, in a vote that saw a 66.1 percent turnout.

They took seats from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who they entered into a coalition government with in 2010.

“When I stood here five years ago our country was in the grip of an economic crisis,” Cameron said. “Five years on Britain is so much stronger but the real opportunities lie ahead. Together, we can make Great Britain greater, still.”

Electoral wipeout

Labour won 232 seats, down from 258 in the last parliament; the Liberal Democrats retained eight of the 57 seats gained in 2010; while the Green Party and UKIP won one seat apiece.

The SNP, running on a left-of-Labour, anti-austerity platform, won 56 of the 59 available seats north of the border, where Labour had been the dominant party for decades.

“In this parliament, I will stay true to my word and implement as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland,” Cameron said.

“In Scotland our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation and no constitutional settlement would be complete if it did not offer, also, fairness to England.”

Eurosceptic Farage had previously promised to resign “in 10 minutes” if he failed to get elected in South Thanet. In his resignation speech he declared himself a “man of my word.”

Europe vote

Referring to a promised vote on the U.K.’s continued membership of the EU, Cameron said the government “will deliver that in-out referendum on our future in Europe.”

Congratulating Cameron on his win, European Council President Donald Tusk said: “I count on the new British government making the case for the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union.

“I am deeply convinced that there is no better life outside the European Union for any country. The United Kingdom plays a key role in ensuring that Europe has a common sense agenda.”

The Liberal Democrats suffered an electoral wipeout, with many of the party’s senior figures such as Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Business Secretary Vince Cable losing their parliamentary seats.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander and former party leader Charles Kennedy were also kicked out.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who was re-elected in his Sheffield Hallam constituency despite significant swing to the Labour candidate, resigned.

Describing the election as a “most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats,” Clegg told party supporters: “To serve my country at a time of crisis is an honor that will stay with me forever.”

More women elected

Around a third of MPs in the parliament are now women after 182 secured seats. The last parliament saw 148 female MPs, or 23 percent of the 650 lawmakers.

Among these new women MPs was 20-year-old student Mhairi Black, one of the SNP candidates to nearly wipe out Labour in Scotland. She defeated Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, who was also in charge of party’s campaign.

Labour’s leader in Scotland Jim Murphy also lost his seat to the nationalists while Kirkcaldy, the seat of former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was not running for re-election, was swallowed by the SNP juggernaut.

Labour lost 40 of the 41 Scottish seats they won in 2010 while the Lib Dems were defeated in  11 of the 12 constituencies they held in the last parliament. The Conservatives held their only Scottish seat.

‘Truly sorry’

Speaking at Labour Party headquarters in London, Miliband said he took “absolute and total responsibility” for Labour’s losses.

“I am truly sorry I did not succeed,” he said. “This party has come back before and will come back again.”

The unexpected outcome was marked by some huge electoral swings, particularly in Scotland.

The largest swing in any seat in the 2010 general election was 21.9 percent but the SNP broke the figure when Labour’s Glenrothes seat went to the SNP with a 34.9 percent swing.

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who stepped down after his party lost last September’s independence referendum, was elected to the Westminister. His successort Nicola Sturgeon was not running in the election, having decided to remain in the Scottish Parliament.

‘Sweetest victory’

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls lost his marginal seat in the north of England, as did Respect candidate George Galloway.

There were 18 seats up for grabs in Northern Ireland’s fractious political sphere.

The Democratic Unionist Party won eight seats, while the more moderate Ulster Unionists secured two. Of the nationalist parties, Sinn Fein gained four constituencies and the Social Democratic and Labour Party got three. One independent Northern Irish candidate was also elected.

Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson, widely tipped as a future party leader and prime minister, was also elected.

Cameron told supporters and aides at the Conservative Party Headquarters earlier: “I remember 2010, achieving that dream of getting Labour out and getting the Tories [Conservatives] back in and that was amazing.

“But I think this is the sweetest victory of all.”