General Election 2015: Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage resign as leaders of Labour, Liberal Democrats and Ukip
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have resigned as party leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip.
Ed Miliband has 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.
Mr Miliband's full resignation speech can be seen below
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.
He added: "Britain needs a strong Labour Party, Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this debate so we can have a government that stands up for working people again.
"And 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."
Rather than breaking through as forecast by opinion polls, Labour saw losses to the Tories in key marginal seats and failed to win the Conservatives most vulnerable constituencies.
Mr Miliband paid a fulsome tribute to Harriet Harman, who will take over as leader during the coming election contest, as the "best deputy leader anyone could hope for".
And he said: "We have come back before and this party will come back again."
Mr Miliband addressed an audience of noisy and passionate activists at a Westminster venue.
He told them he was looking forward to spending more time with his family and he thanked the British people for their involvement in his campaign.
"Thank you for the selfies, thank you for the support," he said.
"And thank you for the most unlikely cult of the 21st century - Milifandom."
To Labour voters he added: "While we may have lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away. The issue of our unequal country will not go away.
"This is the issue of our time, the fight goes on and, whoever is our new leader, I know Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again."
Mr Miliband said everyone "must rise to the challenge of keeping our country" in the wake of massive gains for the SNP.
Nick Clegg resigns as Liberal Democrat leader
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.
<< Mr Clegg's full resignation speech can be seen below>>
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".
He added: "It is simply heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their friends and constituents so diligently over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control."
Mr Clegg added: "If our losses today are part-payment for every family that is more secure because of a job we helped create, every person with depression who is treated with the compassion they deserve, every child who does a little better in school, every apprentice with a long and rewarding career to look forward to, every gay couple who know their love is worth no less than everyone else's, and every pensioner with a little more freedom and dignity in retirement, then I hope our losses can be endured with a little selfless dignity."
Mr Clegg's party saw Cabinet ministers fall in Vince Cable, Danny Alexander and Ed Davey, and devastating losses across the country.
The party was left with just one seat in each of Scotland and Wales.
And it faces a complete wipeout in its South west stronghold, which were Tory-facing seats.
Survivors Tim Fallon and Norman Lamb are thought to be favourites to contest the leadership.
Mr Clegg held on to his Sheffield Hallam seat with a much-reduced majority and, watched by wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, acknowledged that the "cruel" night would have implications for both the country and his own position.
After a series of declarations which saw senior colleagues toppled in a brutal set of reverses that could see the party reduced to single figures in the Commons, Mr Clegg used his acceptance speech to say: "It is now painfully clear that this has been a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats."
Hundreds of Liberal Democrat candidates were humiliated at the ballot box, losing their deposits in race after race.
Nigel Farage resigns as Ukip leader
Mr Farage resigned as Ukip leader after finishing second in Thanet South, telling activists "I'm a man of my word" after promising defeat would force him to quit.
But Mr Farage raised the prospect he would consider running to return to the job after a summer off when the contest is held in September.
Mr Farage said he would recommend Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairman, be a stand-in leader until the leadership challenge is complete.
Mr Farage said in his earlier concession speech that an "enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders", adding that he had "never felt happier".
Announcing his resignation, he said: "I'm a man of my word, I shall be writing to the Ukip national executive in a few minutes, saying I am standing down as leader of Ukip.
"I shall recommend that ... they put in place as acting leader Suzanne Evans who I think has emerged from this campaign as an absolute tower of strength within Ukip."
He added: "Personally, there's a bit of me that is disappointed but there is a bit of me that feels better than I have felt for many, many years.
"It really has been seven days a week, totally unrelenting, and occasionally let down by people who perhaps haven't said and done the right things.
"I haven't had a fortnight's holiday since October 1993. I intend to take the summer off, enjoy myself a bit.
"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."
Conservative Craig Mackinlay won Thanet South by almost 3,000 votes, racking up 18,838 to Mr Farage's 16,026.
Here is Mr Miliband's resignation speech in full:
"Thank you for your kindness, friends.
"Friends, this is not the speech I wanted to give today because I believed that Britain needed a Labour government.
"I still do, but the public voted otherwise last night.
"Earlier today I rang David Cameron to congratulate him.
"I take absolute and total responsibility for the result and our defeat at this election. I am so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats - Ed Balls, Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Douglas Alexander and all the MPs and indeed candidates who were defeated.
"They're friends, colleagues and standard bearers for our party, they always have been and they always will be.
He continued: "I also want to congratulate all of our candidates who were elected yesterday, and who will help take our party forward as well.
"I want to thank those people who ran our campaign - it was the most united, cohesive and enjoyable campaign I have ever been involved in.
"I want to thank Douglas Alexander, Lucy Powell, Spencer Livermore, and most of all, all of you, the incredible team at the Labour party.
"And I also today want to thank the incredible team of Labour Party members, activists and all those people who pounded the streets over the past few months.
"Friends, 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 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.
"Let me say that Harriet Harman is the best deputy leader anyone could hope for.
"I worked for her more than 20 years ago, I'm proud to have had her as my deputy for my term of leadership.
"She will take over until a new leader is elected.
"For me, I'm looking forward to reacquainting myself with Justine, Daniel and Sam. But before I do I want to say a few things."
"First of all, thank you to the British people. Thank you to the people who have met me on train stations, in colleges, in workplaces, in schools. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, I have learned so much from you. It has been an enormous privilege.
"Thank you for the selfies, thank you for the support, and thank you for the most unlikely cult of the 21st century - Milifandom.
"Second, I want to address those who voted Labour yesterday. Today you will feel disappointed, even bleak. But while we may have lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away. The issue of our unequal country will not go away.
"This is the challenge of our time, the fight goes on and, whoever is our new leader, I know Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again.
"Third, I believe in our United Kingdom. Not just because it is our country, but because it is the best way of serving the working people of our country. You know, I believe there is more that unites us than divides us across the whole United Kingdom. And all of us, in the months and years ahead, must rise to the challenge of keeping our country together.
"Finally, I want to say something to my party: thank you to you. Thank you for the privilege. I joined this party aged 17, I never dreamed I would lead it. It has been an incredible force for progress, from workers' rights to the NHS to the minimum wage. No other party in British politics can boast these achievements, and, yes, it will be a force for progress and change once again.
"And to all the Labour Party members, you are the most loyal supporters, amazing people. I thank all of you today. I am truly sorry I did not succeed. I have done my best for nearly five years.
"Now you need to show your responsibility. Your responsibility, not simply to mourn our defeat but to pick yourself up and continue the fight. We have come back before and this party will come back again.
"And if I may, I say to everyone in our party: conduct this leadership election with the same decency, civility and comradeship that we believe is the way that the country should be run. I believe I have brought a culture to this party of an ability to have disagreement without being disagreeable. I urge everyone to keep this in mind in the months ahead.
"Finally I want to say this: The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don't give up, they don't take no for an answer, they keep demanding change. This is my faith. Where we see injustice we must tackle it.
"In a couple of hours I will no longer be leading this party. But, you see, for me, that has never been the only way to achieve change. Because I believe it is not simply leaders who achieve change, it is people that make change happen.
"I will never give up on that idea, I will never give up on that cause, I will never give up on fighting for the Britain I believe in. That faith will always be my faith, that fight will always be my fight, that cause will always be my cause. And I will always be there in that cause with all of you. Thank you very much."
Here is Mr Clegg's resignation speech in full:
"I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats, given the heavy responsibilities we've had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances.
"But clearly results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared.
"For that, of course, I must take responsibility and therefore I announce I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
"A leadership election will now take place according to the party's rules.
"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.
"The Liberal Democrats are a family and I will always be extremely proud of the warmth, good grace and good humour which our political family has shown through the ups and downs of recent years.
"So I want to thank every member, every campaigner, every councillor and every parliamentarian for the commitment you have shown to our country and to our party.
"It is simply heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents so diligently over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.
"In 2011, after a night of disappointing election results for our party, one of our candidates in Edinburgh - Alex Cole-Hamilton - said this, he said if his defeat is part-payment for the ending of child detention then he accepted it with all his heart.
"Those words revealed a selfless dignity which is very rare in politics but common amongst Liberal Democrats.
"If our losses today are part-payment for every family that is more secure because of a job we helped to create, every person with depression who is treated with a compassion they deserve, every child who does a little better in school, every apprentice with a long and rewarding career to look forward to, every gay couple who know that their love is worth no less than anyone else's, and every pensioner with a little more freedom and dignity in retirement, then I hope at least our losses can be endured with a little selfless dignity too.
"We will never know how many lives we changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis.
"But we have done something that cannot be undone - because there can be no doubt we leave government with Britain a far stronger, fairer, greener and more liberal country than it was five years ago.
"However unforgiving the judgment has been of the Liberal Democrats in the ballot box, I believe the history books will judge our party kindly for the service we sought to provide to the nation at a time of great economic difficulty, and for the policies and values which we brought to bear in Government - opportunity, fairness and liberty, which I believe will stand the test of time.
"To have served my country at a time of crisis is an honour that will stay with me forever.
"I hope those that are granted the opportunity to serve our country in government now and in the future will recognise the privilege and responsibility they have been given.
"It's the greatest thing you will ever do.
"It is of course too early to give a considered account of why we have suffered the catastrophic losses we have and the party will have to reflect on these in the time ahead.
"One thing it seems to me is clear: liberalism here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear.
"Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalisation have led people to reach for new certainties - the politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them, is now on the rise.
"It is clear that in constituency after constituency north of the border, the beguiling appeal of Scottish nationalism has swept all before it, and south of the border a fear of what that means for the United Kingdom has strengthened English conservatism too.
"This now brings our country to a very perilous point in our history where grievance and fear combine to drive our different communities apart."
Belfast Telegraph Digital