LONDON – British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservatives on Friday won a second term in a stunning victory that saw three defeated political rivals step down as leaders of their parties within hours.
The Conservatives weren't the only winners: In the north, the separatist Scottish National Party took control of 56 of the 59 seats, obliterating Labour in an unprecedented surge.
Here's a look at some of the winners and losers in Thursday's election:
DAVID CAMERON: To the surprise of most Britons — even the Conservatives themselves — Cameron led his party to an outright majority in Parliament. Polls had consistently predicted an inconclusive election, with the Conservatives and their main rival, Labour, locked in a dead heat. In the end, the Conservatives won 331 of 650 seats in the House of Commons. That meant they did not have to rely on any power-sharing deals with smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats, which helped the Conservatives form a coalition government in 2010.
NICOLA STURGEON: The charismatic Sturgeon led the Scottish National Party to a landslide victory after decades of Labour dominance. Although the SNP failed in September's referendum to break away from England, the party's popularity has surged, not diminished, in recent months. The SNP took all but three of Scotland's 59 seats in Westminster, a huge jump from the six it now holds. Sturgeon hailed the developments as an "historic watershed" and "an overwhelming vote for change in Scotland", and vowed to protect Scotland's interests in London's central Parliament.
MHAIRI BLACK: Black, a 20-year-old university student from the SNP, becomes the youngest member of parliament since 13-year-old Christopher Monck in 1667. She ousted Labour heavyweight Douglas Alexander to win her seat. The political novice said in her victory speech that the people of Scotland are speaking and it's time for their voice to be heard at Westminster.
ED MILIBAND: The Labour leader had little choice but to step down after his party returned just 232 seats, well below the 258 secured five years ago by former leader and ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Miliband said he was "truly sorry" he did not succeed after doing his best for five years, and that it was time for another leader to rebuild the party. Miliband had long struggled with his image, with many unsure whether he had enough gravitas to lead his party and the country. But opinion seemed to shift in recent weeks and some believed he had a reasonable chance of beating Cameron to No. 10 Downing Street.
NICK CLEGG: Clegg and his Liberal Democrats were the biggest losers, suffering a near-total collapse after five years as the Conservatives' junior coalition partner. Clegg managed to keep his seat, but said he would step down as party leader after what he described as a "cruel and punishing night" for the Lib Dems. The party, formerly Britain's third-largest, retained just eight seats, down from 57 in 2010. Many of the party's most senior and experienced politicians were wiped out. Clegg, who held the post of deputy prime minister, rose to power abruptly in 2010, when he was dubbed the "British Obama." He knew he would pay a price for the alliance with conservatives, but said the outcome was "immeasurably more crushing than I could ever have feared."
NIGEL FARAGE: The U.K. Independence Party leader also resigned after losing his seat to the Conservatives, sticking to an earlier promise that he would quit as leader should he fail to be elected to the seat he sought. Farage insisted he had "never felt happier" after his defeat, with "an enormous weight lifted off his shoulders." And he wasn't an outright loser. For one, he said he could stand for party leadership again next year. His party, which has risen rapidly on the back of populist arguments for Britain to leave the European Union, won about 13 percent of the vote, a better result than it has ever achieved. It also played a major role in shaping Britain's political debate, which has increasingly focused on immigration and the country's EU membership. Still, Britain's winner-takes-all electoral system means that despite its surge, UKIP only retained one seat in the House of Commons.