The Conservatives have shocked even themselves by recorded unexpected victory in the general election, with Labour all but obliterated by the SNP in Scotland and Ed Miliband set to resign as leader of the opposition party.
Labour and the Conservatives went into the night with opinion polls showing them neck and neck, and both parties expected a close result followed by weeks of torturous coalition negotiations in an effort to form a coalition.
Instead, Labour failed to make almost any impact on its target seats across England and even lost some traditional strongholds to the Tories, who are within touching distance of winning an outright majority on their own.
The Conservatives ended up with more seats than they won in 2015, despite five years of government. They now have 323 seats, enough to govern on their own without a coalition.
Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are also expected to step down as leaders of the Lib Dems and UKIP due to the election result, while Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls lost his seat.
"We haven't made the gains we wanted in England and Wales, and in Scotland we've seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party," Miliband told supporters in Doncaster.
David Cameron is now expected to remain as prime minister, although he may still choose to seek the support of Northern Ireland's DUP or the few remaining Lib Dems in order to secure a working majority in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, UKIP's Nigel Farage failed to be elected an MP and is expected to step down as party leader if he fails to win in Thanet South. His party finished second in many seats, notably in the north of England, but failed to make a breakthrough.
When the exit poll was released at 10pm on Thursday night it predicted the Conservatives would win 316 seats to Labour's 239, with the SNP on 58 and the Lib Dems on 10.
This was treated with disbelief by officials within all parties, but when the first results started coming in it was soon clear that Labour's campaign had made almost no impact and that the party had instead gone backwards in some areas.
With a majority of seats declared, Labour has failed to make any substantial gains in England, but has also lost 39 of its 40 seats in Scotland to the SNP. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy lost his seat, while shadow foreign secretary and Labour campaign chief Douglas Alexander was defeated by a 20-year-old university undergraduate.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg narrowly kept Sheffield Hallam, but almost every other prominent member of his party lost their seats, including business secretary Vince Cable and Treasury secretary Danny Alexander.
Meanwhile, the Greens failed to make an electoral breakthrough, and UKIP stacked up millions of votes – performing very well in the north of England – but because of the existing electoral system is expected to win just one seat: Douglas Carswell in Clacton.
David Cameron returned to London, where he is due to visit the Queen and ask to form a government at lunchtime. The SNP is celebrating a result that exceeded its expectations and preparing to send 56 MPs to Westminster.
But Labour, the Lib Dems, and potentially UKIP are now despondent and looking for new leaders.
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at email@example.com.
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