Prime Minister David Cameron won a stunning election victory in Britain, overturning poll predictions that the vote would be the closest in decades to sweep easily into office for another five years, with his Labour opponents in tatters.
The sterling currency, bonds and shares surged on a result that reversed expectations of an inconclusive “hung parliament” in which Cameron would have had to jockey for power with Labour rival Ed Miliband.
Instead, Cameron met Queen Elizabeth before noon to accept a swift mandate to form a government. The royal standard was raised at Buckingham Palace to signal the queen was there awaiting him.
“This is the sweetest victory of all,” he told enthusiastic supporters at party headquarters. “The real reason to celebrate tonight, the real reason to be proud, the real reason to be excited is we are going to get the opportunity to serve our country again.”
“The responsibility for the result is mine alone.”
Miliband was expected to step down as Labour leader. He said on Twitter: “The responsibility for the result is mine alone.”
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 last year 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 the United Kingdom.
Cameron sounded a conciliatory note towards Scotland, likely to be his first immediate headache. “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, 48, said after winning his own seat in Witney, Oxfordshire.