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Closet Conservatives carry Cameron home

Mark Hallam, London
May 8, 2015

Britain's Conservatives have easily won Thursday's elections. And Prime Minister David Cameron won't even need a coalition partner for his second term. DW's Mark Hallam reports from London.

Großbritannien Wahl 2015 Cameron kehrt in die Downing Street 10 zurück
Image: Reuters/P. Noble

David Cameron looks certain for five more years as prime minister in Westminster after Thursday's electoral upset. Prior to the vote, polls of all stripes found that no party had any real chance of pulling off a majority; the country was primed and ready for coalition confusion. Major UK daily papers - most of them printed in the early hours of the morning, before the extent of the Conservatives' success truly solidified - could scarcely conceal their shock.

Cameron's Conservatives won an absolute majority, taking 326 of a possible 650 House of Commons seats. The theoretical winning post is 326 (half the seats plus one), but considering the empty Northern Irish separatist seats in Westminster - won, but never filled by Sinn Fein in an act of protest - the Conservatives will likely hold 329 seats after the final count.

"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, a clear nod to the other, bigger winners on the night in Scotland.

Expected to gain, Labour loses ground

Rather than running the Conservatives close, Labour dropped on their haul from the 2010 election defeat. The center-left opposition failed to claim the Tory-Labour battlegrounds where British votes are won and lost.

Party leader Ed Miliband held onto his seat, but resigned Friday morning.

Großbritannien wählt - Wahl zum Unterhaus im Vereinigten Königreich 2015
Miliband's resignation seemed a foregone conclusion by Friday morningImage: Reuters/O. Scarff

In Doncaster, Labour heartland in the north of England, Miliband said that it had been a "disappointing and difficult night."

"We haven't made the gains we hoped for in England and Wales," Miliband began, before addressing Labour's demolition in Scotland. Miliband's right-hand man, shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, lost his seat; his Scottish party leader, Jim Murphy, was dethroned as well.

SNP sweeps board, Farage loses in Thanet South

The Scottish National Party claimed 56 of a possible 59 seats in Scotland, winning roughly half of the popular vote. Success was expected for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and longstanding nationalist front man Alex Salmond.

Großbritannien Wahl zum Unterhaus Ergebnis SNP Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon's got a grip on all of Scotland, but how will she work with the Conservatives?Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Heppell

Labour had held 41 of those seats, but Sturgeon said in the early hours of the morning that it was "Labour's failure to beat the Conservatives in England" that explained the shock results.

To the south, in Kent, euroskeptic UKIP leader Nigel Farage narrowly lost the Thanet South seat to Conservative challenger Craig Mackinlay.

"There was an earthquake in this election - it happened north of the border," Farage said, a reference to the SNP. This rise, he said, might help explain the shift to the right in England, implying that concerns about a Labour-SNP alliance drove voters into Tory arms. What's more, Farage said, the result showed it was time for reform to England's electoral system. With localized support, the SNP could turn its votes into 57 seats, while UKIP won more votes, in a larger spread of constituencies, and was rewarded with just one MP. He said that meant the UK needed "real, genuine and radical reform, and UKIP will be the party that leads it."

Großbritannien wählt - Wahl zum Unterhaus im Vereinigten Königreich 2015
Farage sought to look on the bright side, reminding people that after the last election, he was in intensive care after a plane crashImage: Reuters/S. Plunkett

But not under him. Farage tendered his resignation as party chief late Friday morning.

Liberal Democrats decimated

Five years ago, it was the Liberal Democrats winning a monster share of the vote and a meager number of seats. Now, after a difficult term in coalition with the Conservatives, electoral reform would scarcely have helped. The party was decimated - especially in its traditional strongholds in Scotland and the South West of England - sliding from 57 seats and 23 percent of the popular vote to an expected 10 seats from around 7.7 percent of the vote. Three of the party's leading lights - Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and former leader Charles Kennedy - were among the lengthy list of Liberal casualties. On Friday morning, party head Nick Clegg formally resigned.

With just moments left in the counting phase, it looks like the Conservatives will not need the Lib Dems to control the Commons this time. David Cameron can tentatively ready his plans for five years in majority - albeit probably with quite a headache to the north in Scotand, and no doubt amid euroskeptic pressure to stick to his in/out EU referendum pledge.