Clegg expected to step down as leader
Nick Clegg's leadership of the Liberal Democrats appears to be drawing to an end after a disastrous election night for the party.
The Deputy Prime Minister said he would make a statement about his position after meeting with colleagues in Westminster following results which saw the party's representation in the Commons slashed, with Cabinet ministers Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and Ed Davey among those losing their seats.
The chances of the Lib Dems repeating a coalition deal with the Tories if David Cameron failed to secure a majority appeared remote, with the party lacking either the appetite or the seats to make a deal attractive after a "devastating" night.
Mr Clegg held on to his Sheffield Hallam seat with a much-reduced majority and, watched by wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, acknowledged that the "cruel" night would have implications for both the country and his own position.
After a series of declarations which saw senior colleagues toppled in a brutal set of reverses that could see the party reduced to single figures in the Commons, Mr Clegg used his acceptance speech to say: "It is now painfully clear that this has been a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats."
In an address marked by heckling over his decision to support the Tories in government and his U-turn over tuition fees, Mr Clegg continued: "The election has profound implications for the country and it obviously has profound implications for the Liberal Democrats.
"I will be seeking to make further remarks about the implications of this election, both for the country and for the party I lead and for my position in the Liberal Democrats when I make remarks to my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats later this morning when I return to Westminster."
A senior aide would not confirm whether Mr Clegg would be resigning, insisting that he should be given the time to make his own statement.
The spokesman said: "He is going to go back to London shortly and he will make a statement in Westminster later today to party colleagues.
"I think rather than me speculate on what he is going to say, I think he is a man who has served this constituency and country with resilience, with good humour and with grace and I think I will let him speak for himself rather than speak for him now."
He added: "People will speculate, you only have to wait a few short hours until the man himself gets to speak.
"After what has clearly been a very bad night for the Lib Dems, I think it's only right that he is given the time and space which he was not afforded in there by some of the hecklers to speak for himself.
"I think that is the very least he deserves."
With Mr Cameron poised to return to No 10, the spokesman indicated it was unlikely there would be a repeat of the coalition if the Tories fell short of an outright majority.
"I don't think that's on the cards," he said. "That's probably a question for tomorrow."