Nick Clegg appeared close to tears today as he dramatically resigned as the Liberal Democrat party leader after a ‘crushing’ election night in which his own Sheffield Hallam majority was slashed.
The former Deputy Prime Minister clung on to his Sheffield seat but lost thousands of votes to Labour challenger Oliver Coppard.
Across the country, the Liberal Democrats are set to lose 47 MPs include high profile members such as Business Secretary Vince Cable, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander and Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
Mr Clegg said in a press conference today: “I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats.”
Describing it as “heartbreaking” to see friends and colleagues “abruptly lose seats”, he tells party members: “Clearly, the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I ever could have thought.
“For that I must take responsibility and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.”
Mr Clegg said the UK was stronger, “greener” and more liberal because of the Liberal Democrats’ role in the Coalition government from 2010,
“To serve my country at a time of crisis is an honour that will stay with me forever,” he says.
Mr Clegg continues: “We will never know how many lives we have changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis.”
He said the party must now reflect on the catastrophic losses endured overnight.
It has been the “most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats” since the party was founded, says Mr Clegg.
“It is a dark hour” for Lib Dems but “our party will come back, our party will win again”, he adds.
British liberalism is more needed than ever before and “we must keep fighting for it”, says Mr Clegg.
His departure is expected to be followed in short order by Ed Miliband, who saw his dream of gaining No 10 shattered on a devastating night for Labour with shadow chancellor Ed Balls heading a list of high-profile casualties.
The Labour leader wrote on his Twitter account: “The responsibility for the result is mine alone.”
It was a bitter night also for Nigel Farage, who announced he was quitting as Ukip leader after failing in his bid to secure a Westminster seat in South Thanet - although he said he would consider standing for the post again in September.
Prime Minister David Cameron is preparing to head to Buckingham Palace to confirm his second term as Prime Minister, at the head of a majority Conservative government.