General Election 2015: David Cameron returns as Prime Minister after shock Conservative majority win
SNP crushes Labour in Scotland and the Lib Dems are all but wiped out
David Cameron has returned to 10 Downing Street for another term as Prime Minister and has announced he will lead a majority conservative government.
A dramatic night saw the Scottish National Party sweep Labour out of almost all its strongholds north of the border, while Liberal Democrats suffered savage losses.
Subsequently Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage - the leaders the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip - all resigned
The Camerons spent just over 20 minutes with the Queen leaving a few minutes before 1pm.
Mr Cameron all but declared victory in a speech after being returned as MP for Witney, in which he 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.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street David Cameron promised voters "we are on the brink of something special in this country" as he returned to Downing Street as a Prime Minister with a Tory Commons majority for the first time.
The premier saw his seat tally tick over the all important mark of 326, an absolute majority, while he was at Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty The Queen.
He paid tribute to Nick Clegg's work as Deputy Prime Minister and welcomed Ed Miliband's "typically gracious" concession call earlier today.
Standing in Downing Street in front of the famous black door, Mr Cameron said: "We can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing."
The Prime Minister vowed to deliver his entire manifesto, including an in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, now he had a majority government.
He said: "As we conduct this vital work we must ensure we bring our country together.
"As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom.
"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. It means giving everyone in our country a chance so no matter where you are from you have the opportunity to make the most of your life."
Mr Cameron said he had "always believed in governing with respect", promising to implement further devolution to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
He added: "Governing with respect means ensuring the nations of our United Kingdom have their own governments as well as the United Kingdom government. Both are important.
"And indeed with our plans, the governance of these nations will become powerful with wider responsibilities."
Mr Cameron concluded: "The real opportunities lie ahead. Everything I have seen over the last five years and, indeed, during this election campaign has proved once again this is a country with unrivalled skills and creativeness. A country with such good humour and such compassion.
"I am convinced that if we draw on all of this then we can take these islands with all our proud history and build an even prouder future.
"Together we can make Great Britain greater still."
As he travelled back to Conservative HQ to watch the last results come in, Mr Cameron tweeted a picture of himself kissing wife Samantha.
"Here's to a brighter future for everyone," he wrote.
A Conservative majority had seemed a distant prospect as polling day dawned yesterday.
But as the Big Ben bell tolled 10pm last night, the exit poll suggested the Tories could be on the brink of an improbable victory - only for Mr Cameron's party to outperform even those predictions, holding key constituencies and gaining ground in others.
The Tories toppled Labour MPs including shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
And they demolished their former coalition partners, winning many Liberal Democrat seats - including the high- profile scalps of Vince Cable, Ed Davey and David Laws.
Mr Cameron said: "I have been proud to lead the first coalition government in 70 years and I want to thank all those who worked so hard to make it a success.
"In particular, on this day, Nick Clegg. Elections can be bruising clashes of ideas and arguments.
"And a lot of people who believe profoundly in public service have seen that service cut short."
The Prime Minister added: "Ed Miliband rang me this morning to wish me luck with the new government.
"It was a typically generous gesture from someone who is clearly in public service for all the right reasons."
Ed Miliband: 'I'm deeply sorry for what has happened' - Labour leader stands down
Ed Miliband has apologised for a "very disappointing and difficult night" for Labour as he hinted he would stand down as leader.
The Labour leader's resignation came after Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage also resigned as party leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Ukip.
Labour suffered a humiliating defeat in Scotland, losing a succession of senior figures booted out by a resurgent SNP and also lost a string of seats to Conservatives.
It was a night that contradicted pre-election polls and handed victory to David Cameron, with the Tories on course to win one short of a majority.
Speaking after winning his Doncaster North seat, Mr Miliband said: "This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party.
"We have not made the gains we wanted in England and Wales, and in Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party," he said after being comfortably re-elected with an increased majority in Doncaster North.
"I want to say to all the dedicated and decent colleagues in Scotland who have lost their seats that I am deeply sorry for what has happened.
"And I also want to say that the next government has a huge responsibility. It has a huge responsibility in facing the very difficult task of keeping our country together.
"Whatever party we come from, if we believe in the United Kingdom we should stand up for people in every part of our United Kingdom because I believe that what unites us is much, much more than what divides us."
In a speech Ed Miliband quit as Labour leader after a dramatic election night where his party was virtually wiped out in Scotland and David Cameron was on the way to a Commons majority.
Reflecting on the devastating results after 30 seconds of applause, Mr Miliband said he took "absolute and total responsibility" for the result, offering apologies to big Labour beasts including Ed Balls and Jim Murphy who were defeated overnight.
Nick Clegg: Results were "immeasurably more crushing" than he could have feared
Nick Clegg has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats after admitting the results were "immeasurably more crushing" than he could have feared.
Mr Clegg's party has been reduced to a rump of just eight seats following a devastating General Election which has seen the party completely collapse even in its heartlands.
The Sheffield Hallam MP reflected on Lib Dem achievements in government and said serving his country had been a privilege.
But Mr Clegg said: "I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats given the heavy responsibilities we have had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances.
"But clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared. For that, of course, I must take responsibility."
Mr Clegg confirmed the leadership contest would follow the party's rules, adding: "For the last seven years it has been a privilege, a huge privilege, an unlimited honour to lead a party of the most resilient, courageous and remarkable people."
Mr Clegg insisted there was a "way back" and promised his party it "would win again".
Belfast Telegraph Digital