Ed Miliband resigns after massive Labour losses as Conservatives win overall majority
Ed Miliband has quit as Labour leader after his hopes of entering No 10 were shattered in a dramatic night which saw David Cameron claim the scalps of his three main rivals.
Minutes before Mr Cameron went to Buckingham Palace to confirm his second term as Prime Minister at the head of a majority Conservative government, Mr Miliband told his supporters he was "truly sorry" he had been unable to lead them to victory.
"Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this defeat so that we can have a government that stands up for working people again," he said.
"Now it is time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party so I am tendering my resignation taking effect after this afternoon's commemoration of VE Day at the Cenotaph.
"I want to do so straight away because the party needs to have an open and honest debate about the right way forward without constraint."
His announcement came after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Ukip's Nigel Farage announced they were standing down in the wake of one of the biggest general election shocks since the Second World War.
The news that the Conservatives had passed the 326 mark needed for an outright Commons majority came as Mr Cameron was at the Palace for his audience with the Queen.
The Tories were projected to win 331 seats in all with 232 for Labour, 56 for the SNP, eight for the Lib Dems and just one for Ukip.
Mr Miliband's departure became inevitable after a night in which Labour was blown away north of the border by the Scottish Nationalists while failing to take any seats from the Conservatives.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy were among the high profile victims in a result which has shaken the party to its core.
Mr Clegg also had little choice but to quit after the Lib Dems' tally of MPs was reduced from 56 to a rump of just eight, with Business Secretary Vince Cable, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, and Energy Secretary Ed Davey among the fallers.
While Mr Clegg acknowledged that the Lib Dems had paid the price for five years in coalition with the Tories, he said the history books would judge their time in government "kindly".
And he warned that the UK was at a "very perilous point" where the politics of grievance and fear risked driving the country apart.
"It is no exaggeration to say that, in the absence of strong and statesmanlike leadership, Britain's place in Europe and the world and the continued existence of our United Kingdom itself is now in grave jeopardy," he said.
After a night that will go down as one of the biggest General Election shocks since the Second World War, Mr Cameron told jubilant activists the result was the "sweetest victory of them all".
In his acceptance speech following his re-election as MP for Witney, Mr Cameron set out his intention to press ahead with an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union and to build on the economic foundations laid by the Coalition since 2010.
"My aim remains simple - to govern on the basis of governing for everyone in our United Kingdom," he said.
He made clear that he was determined not to allow the rising tide of nationalism to lead to the break-up of the UK, saying: "I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can the devolution that we rightly promised and came together with other parties to agree both for Wales and for Scotland.
"In short, I want my party, and I hope a Government I would like to lead, to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost - the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom. That is how I will govern if I am fortunate enough to form a Government in the coming days."
The Prime Minister smiled and waved as he entered No 10 with his wife Samantha, but made no comment to waiting reporters.
Downing Street said he would drive to Buckingham Palace at 12.30 ahead of his attendance at a ceremony at the Cenotaph to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
With the Tories far outperforming expectations in an election which had been forecast to be a neck-and-neck race, Mr Cameron will have a wafer-thin overall majority.
The scene was set for a difficult few years for the Prime Minister, who will be acutely vulnerable to rebellions by 30-40 Conservative backbenchers, who have already shown themselves ready to defy him on issues such as Europe and the family.
As the SNP swept up one Labour stronghold after another the party's former leader Alex Salmond said there had been an "electoral tsunami" north of the border.
Mr Salmond, who returned to Parliament as MP for Gordon, said: ''There's going to be a lion roaring tonight, a Scottish lion, and it's going to roar with a voice that no government of whatever political complexion is going to be able to ignore."
But the party was denied the clean sweep some had predicted north of the border, as the Liberal Democrats held Orkney and Shetland, Ian Murray held on to Edinburgh South for Labour, and David Mundell remained the only Tory MP in Scotland, holding on to Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.
Conceding his own defeat in Morley and Outwood, Mr Balls - who might otherwise have been a contender to replace Mr Miliband - said: "Any personal disappointment I have at this result is as nothing compared to the sense of sorrow I have at the result Labour has achieved across the UK, and the sense of concern I have about the future."
Mr Balls predicted five years of public spending cuts and threats to the NHS, as well as questions about Britain's position in Europe and the future of the Union.