Clegg calls it quits but Farage refuses to rule out another run
A dejected Nick Clegg threw in the towel as leader of the Liberal Democrats, describing the results as "dark hour" for his party, and "the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded".
Mr Clegg, who was the UK's Deputy Prime Minister for five years, held on to his seat of Sheffield Hallam.
But he said: "It has simply been heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents so diligently, over so many years, abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control," he said.
"The results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have imagined.
"For that, of course, I must take responsibility and therefore announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
"An election will now take place for a new party leader."
The Liberal Democrats would now be able to travel to Westminster in a minivan - down from 57 - with a handful of constituencies still undeclared.
Senior figures including Business Secretary Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, were prevented from returning to parliament. Energy Secretary Ed Davey and justice minister Simon Hughes were also voted out.
Despite the huge losses Mr Clegg was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation as he arrived at the Institute of Contemporary Arts building on The Mall, where crowds of party supporters were gathered.
"However unforgiving the judgment has been of the liberal democrats, I believe the history books will judge us kindly for he service we sought to provide to the nation at a time of great economic difficulty," he insisted.
Nigel Farage, the figurehead of the anti-European Union party Ukip, also fell on his sword after failing to win a parliamentary seat . However he was careful to point out that he may run for the party leadership again.
Ukip, the UK Independence Party, won about 13pc of the vote nationally, its best result by a very long way, but because of the winner-takes-all first past the post system, his party only won a single seat in the House of Commons.
Mr Farage, UKIP's only nationally-known politician, had said before the election it would be "curtains" for him if he failed to win the seat of Thanet South on the coast of southeast England.
He came second, beaten to a seat by a Conservative rival.
"I'm a man of my word ... so I shall be writing to the Ukip national executive in a few minutes saying that I am standing down as leader of Ukip," Mr Farage said in a hastily convened press conference on a picturesque headland.
But he immediately went on to say he would consider over the summer whether to stand for the party leadership again when members vote in September. (© Independent News Service)