LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron‘s Conservative Party defied the polls and won an outright majority of Parliament, election results showed Friday.
The party won 331 seats, enough to form a government without a coalition partner.
The outcome defies months of polls forecasting a statistical dead heat between the two major parties — Conservative and Labour — with neither expected to win an outright majority, setting the stage for the country’s second coalition government in a row.
In a victory speech Friday outside 10 Downing Street, Cameron said the Conservative Party as a majority would be able to deliver all of its promises and pledged to hold a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the European Union.
The prime minister said: “ I want my party, and I hope a government I would like to lead, to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost – the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom.”
He paid tribute to Miliband and Clegg, and adopted a more emollient tone than in the wake of the Scottish referendum last September, saying he wanted to bring together the nations of the United Kingdom.
“I truly believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country,” Cameron said. Together, we can make Great Britain greater still.”
“I have always believed in governing with respect.” This was why, he said, he had offered devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland his plan was “to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation”. Rather than dwelling on the rights of the English, he said: “No constitutional settlement will be complete if it did not also offer fairness to England.”
Cameron promised to rebalance the economic recovery and give the poorest people the chance of training for a job and hope for the future.
Following protocol, Cameron met privately Friday at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth II to agree to the formation of his Conservative government.
The final tally for the 650-seat House of Commons shows the Labour Party won 232 seats. Cameron’s current coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, all but collapsed, winning only eight seats. It previously held 57 seats.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party surged to new heights, picking up 56 out of a possible 59 seats in Scotland. Only one Labour member of Parliament was elected in Scotland.
Overall, it was a disappointing election for Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Both parties saw high-profile members of Parliament lose their seats in the voting.
“This is not the speech I wanted to give today,” Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said at the start of a news conference Friday as he announced he was stepping down.
“Britain needs a strong Labour Party,” he added. “And now it’s time for someone else to lead this party.”
He said: “ I take absolute and total responsibility for the result and our defeat at this election.”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who narrowly avoided being unseated, also announced his resignation as party leader. He called it a “cruel and punishing night” for his party.
A third minority party leader — Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) — said he was stepping down after failing to win a seat, losing to the Conservative Party candidate. UKIP — the anti-immigration, anti EU party — won just one seat.
“I’m a man of my word,” Farage said Friday. He had previously promised to resign if he lost the race. Still, he also mentioned he would consider running for UKIP in the future.
British prime minister David Cameron has confirmed his Conservative party will form a new government following its election victory without a need of a coalition.