By Bill Smith, dpa (TNS)
LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron promised Friday to deliver all the economic and political reforms in his manifesto after his Conservative Party won an outright parliamentary majority in the general election.
“We will deliver that in-out referendum on our future in Europe,” Cameron said, referring to his promise to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and hold a referendum by the end of 2017.
He said five years of the Conservatives’ coalition government with the Liberal Democrats had “laid the foundations for a better future.”
“As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom,” he said outside his residence in London’s Downing Street after visiting Queen Elizabeth to inform her of his plan to form a new government.
“That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country, from north to south, from east to west,” Cameron said, adding that he plans to expand devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland “as fast as I can.”
Cameron earlier hailed the “sweetest victory” of his political career, with the win giving the Conservatives around 330 seats and a clear mandate for another five years in office.
The Conservative majority in the 650-seat parliament surprised most political analysts.
The Conservatives’ main rivals, Labour, won some 230 seats, meaning it had lost about two dozen of those they had held since 2010. Their leader, Ed Miliband, resigned the party leadership after calling Cameron to congratulate him on the election result. Of his own position, he said it was “time for someone else.”
“The responsibility for the result is mine alone,” he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg also resigned his party’s leadership, after accepting responsibility for the “catastrophic” loss of seats in the election.
The Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives’ coalition partners for the last five years, lost 48 of the 57 seats they held in 2010, with several seats still to be counted.
“It is now painfully clear that this has been a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats,” says Clegg, who served as deputy prime minister in the coalition.
He is one of only eight members of his party to have won a seat in Thursday’s election.
The London stock exchange was up around 2 percent during mid-day trading while sterling was gaining on the dollar and the euro.
“Clearly we have a mandate to get on with the work that we started five years ago,” Chancellor George Osborne said.
Most pre-election polls had forecast no more than 285 seats for Osborne’s party.
There was a rise in support for the right-wing UK Independence Party, although it won only one seat and party leader Nigel Farage failed to get one. He later resigned the party leadership.
In his resignation speech, Farage blamed his defeat on prospective UKIP voters choosing the Conservatives because they “were so scared” of a possible coalition government between Labour and the Scottish National Party, which right-wing tabloid newspapers had presented as a “nightmare” scenario.
Farage lost out to Conservative candidate Craig Craig Mackinlay, a former UKIP deputy leader, in the South Thanet constituency.
The Scottish National Party won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland, wiping out all but one of Labour’s seats in what party leader Nicola Sturgeon hailed as a “historic watershed.”
The election shapes Britain’s economic future and could have major implications for the country’s welfare services, its relationship with the European Union — and even the future integrity of the country.
Cameron said the country “must hold” a promised referendum on EU membership and allow greater devolution for Scotland and Wales “as fast as we can.”
Turnout in the election was about 66 percent, a similar level to the last election in 2010.
In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated Cameron on his victory.
The commission “stands ready to work constructively with the new British government,” said spokesman Margaritis Schinas, adding that it will examine any requests for a change in Britain’s relations with the European Union in a “polite, friendly and objective way.”
The 28-member bloc’s governments must decide on any EU treaty changes, Schinas said, warning that freedom of movement — an issue challenged by many eurosceptics in Britain — is a “non-negotiable” right that is essential to the bloc.
(c)2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Photo: The Prime Minister David Cameron delivers his victory speech at the Witney Constituency Parliamentary Count, Witney, Oxfordshire, on May 8, 2015 after winning his seat in Witney the previous night. (Andrew Parsons/i-Images/Zuma Press/TNS)