PRIME Minister David Cameron won an emphatic election victory in Britain, overturning predictions that the vote would be the closest in decades to sweep into office for another five years, with the opposition Labour in tatters.
The sterling currency soared on a result that reversed expectations of an indecisive result that could have left Cameron jockeying for power with Labour leader Ed Miliband. Instead, Cameron was due to meet the Queen before noon to accept a swift mandate to form a government.
“This is clearly a very strong night for the Conservative party,” Cameron said after being re-elected to his Witney seat in Oxfordshire.
A few hours later, he returned to Downing Street with his wife Samantha and the prime minister’s office confirmed that he intended to pay a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace at 12:30 pm, when he is expected to be reconfirmed as premier and asked to form a new government.
Cameron said Britain now “must hold” a referendum on membership of the European Union that he has promised by 2017, raising the prospect that the country could leave the bloc.
Despite the unexpectedly decisive result, however, there is uncertainty over whether Britain will stay in the European Union - and even hold together as a country.
In Scotland, the nationalist surge also proved larger than expected as the pro-independence Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) won 56 out of 59 seats when the final results came in, almost entirely wiping out the Labour party north of the border.
Cameron sounded a conciliatory note, saying: “Above all 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.
“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.”
Miliband, meanwhile, is widely expected to resign in the wake of his defeat. A North London Socialist and self-described “geek” who never quite connected with working-class voters, he ran a campaign that was widely seen as better than expected, but was always far behind Cameron in polls that asked voters who they saw as a more credible leader.
“This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party,” he told supporters after retaining his own parliamentary seat in Doncaster, northern England.
In a body blow to the party, Douglas Alexander, the party’s campaign chief and shadow foreign secretary, lost his seat to a 20-year-old Scottish nationalist student. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was also toppled. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls also lost his seat.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is also expected to resign, after seeing the party humiliated as a response to his decision to join the Conservatives in government five years ago and abandon high profile election pledges.
He won his own seat but called it a “cruel and punishing” night.
The UK Independence Party, which wants an immediate British withdrawal from the EU, was on track to get two seats at best amid speculation that Nigel Farage, its leader, would fail to be elected and therefore have to step down.
The party easily secured the third most votes, but could not translate this to many seats under Britain’s system, in which candidates stand for seats in individual districts and a party’s overall vote tally is meaningless.
Sterling gained more than 2 cents against the dollar to rise above $1.55 for the first time since late February, and looked on track to enjoy its biggest one-day gain against the euro since January 2009.