U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron won an emphatic election victory in Britain, overturning predictions that the vote would be the closest in decades to sweep into office for another five years, with his Labour opponents in tatters.
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Britain's Conservative party has secured an effective parliamentary majority with all results from a national election reported. With all 650 seats declared, the Conservatives have ended up with 331 seats in the House of Commons, 24 more than in 2010.
Labour has ended up with 232, the Lib Dems with 8 , the SNP 56, Plaid Cymru 3, UKIP 1, the Greens 1 and others 19.
Cameron has announced that he will retain several key ministers in his new cabinet, and said he will keep George Osborne as chancellor and add the role of first secretary of state, making Osborne the highest-ranking cabinet minister.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Theresa May will also retain their posts, Cameron said.
Following the resounding Conservative victory, Opposition Leader Ed Miliband announced his resignation as Labour Party leader. Speaking at a party meeting, Miliband said that "Britain needs a strong Labour party. Britain needs a Labour party that can rebuild after this defeat so we can have a government that stands up for working people again." "And now it's time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party, so I'm tendering my resignation, taking effect after this afternoon's commemoration of VE day ...," he said.
Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman will take over until a new leader is elected, said Miliband.
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband reacts to the elections results, May 8, 2015. (Reuters)
The sterling currency and share prices soared on a result that reversed expectations of an inconclusive "hung parliament" with Cameron jockeying for power with Labour rival Ed Miliband. Instead, Cameron was due to meet Queen Elizabeth before noon to accept a swift mandate to form a government.
But despite the unexpectedly decisive outcome, more uncertainty looms over whether Britain will stay in the European Union - and even hold together as a country.
Scottish nationalists swept aside Labour, meaning that Scotland, which voted just a year ago to stay in the United Kingdom, will send just three representatives of major British parties to parliament and be all but shut out of the cabinet. That could revive calls for it to leave Britain.
Cameron's victory also means Britain will face a vote which he has promised on continued membership in the EU. He says he wants to stay in the bloc, but only if he secures changes to its rules in negotiations that have not yet begun. Cameron returned, smiling, to the prime minister's office in Downing Street early on Friday.
"I want my party - and, I hope, a government I would like to lead - to reclaim a mantle we should never have lost, the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom," Cameron said.
Lib Dems, UKIP leaders resign
In addition to Labour's Miliband, the leaders of both the U.K. Independence Party, known for its anti-immigration policies, and the Liberal Democrats, both announced their resignations as party chiefs. UKIP's Nigel Farage said on Friday he was quitting as leader after he failed to win a parliamentary seat, but said he didn't rule out running for the leadership again. "There will be a leadership election for the next leader of UKIP in September and I will consider over the course of this summer whether to put my name forward to do that job again," Farage told reporters.
Clegg's center-left Liberal Democrats was crushed in the elections, reduced to single digits after winning 57 seats five years ago.
'Very disappointing' night for Labour
Miliband said on Friday that his party had suffered a "very disappointing" night after election results showed it was on track to lose seats and lag far behind Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives. On Twitter, he took full responsibility for his party's election loss, and said that while defeats are hard, "we’re a party that will never stop fighting for the working people of this country."
Defeats are hard, but we’re a party that will never stop fighting for the working people of this country.
"This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party," he told supporters after retaining his own parliamentary seat in Doncaster, northern England.
Effectively conceding defeat, Miliband added that he was "deeply sorry" for what had happened elsewhere in Britain, especially in Scotland where he said a surge of nationalism had overwhelmed the Labour party.
Compouding the bad news for Labour was the news that Ed Balls, a Labour member of parliament since 2005 and a long-time ally of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, lost his seat on the outskirts of the northern English city of Leeds to a Conservative challenger by a margin of just 422 votes. Balls was vying to become Britain's next finance minister, and his defeat marks one of the most high-profile losses for the opposition at Thursday's national election.
Anti-Israel Galloway loses seat, says 'Zionists will be celebrating'
George Galloway, the U.K Respect Party leader known for his vehemently anti-Israel views, lost his constituency in Bradford West to Labour, and has also been reported to police for allegedly violating election laws, the BBC reported. Galloway has been accused of retweeting Respect's own exit poll before polls closed. Under section 66 of Britain’s Representation of the People's Act, it is illegal to discuss voting while polls are still open. A Galloway spokesperson denied the accusation, telling the BBC that the report is a “storm in a thimble."
In his concession speech, Galloway said that "the venal, the vile, the racists and the zionists will all be celebrating. The hyena can bounce on the lion’s grave but it can never be a lion and in any case, I’m not in my grave. As a matter of fact I’m going off now to plan the next campaign,” The Independent reported.
"The Zionists will all be celebrating" From George Galloway's defeat speech.
Bad night for nasty xenophobes. Galloway and Ward OUT. UKIP on track for only 1 seat (-1) and Farage will probably lose on his 7th attempt.
Secessionist SNP sweeps Scotland
Meanwhile, Scottish nationalists rampaged to victory over the border, obliterating their opponents and setting the stage for a new battle over independence. In an epic performance, the Scottish National Party (SNP) ousted the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and took former Prime Minister Gordon Brown's onetime stronghold in Kirkcaldy.
Scottish National Party supporters celebrate in Glasgow, Scotland, on May 8, 2015. (AFP)
With results in for all but one of Scotland's 59 seats, the SNP had won 55, with the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats managing only one apiece. Labour's U.K. campaign chief Douglas Alexander lost his Scottish seat to a 20-year-old politics student, the SNP's Mhairi Black, the youngest British member of parliament since the 17th century.
"The Scottish lion has roared this morning across the country," former SNP leader Alex Salmond said after triumphing in the Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire.
"Scotland has asked to speak with a united voice, that voice will be made clearly for Scotland in the next Westminster parliament," said Salmond, whose campaign to lead Scotland to independence was defeated last September.
But with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives on course for overall victory, the SNP will be shut out of any role in the British government - a scenario likely to bring a new confrontation over Scottish aspirations for independence.
In response to the SNP's sweeping gains, British finance minister George Osborne said on Friday that the next government faced a major task bringing the country together, after an election in which nationalists won almost all the seats in Scotland.
"To bring the United Kingdom together ... is going to be one of the big tasks we now face," Osborne said in a victory speech after being re-elected as a member of parliament for Tatton in northwest England.
Prime Minister Cameron said earlier on Friday that he wanted to implement plans for further devolution of political powers to Scotland and Wales as fast as possible.