Nick Clegg resigns as party leader as senior Lib Dem figures including Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Ed Davey and Charles Kennedy also lose seats.
Nick Clegg has resigned as the Liberal Democrat leader.
Having narrowly hanging on to his Sheffield Hallam seat with a much reduced majority, Mr Clegg met with colleagues earlier today. Just before midday, he appeared and announced his resignation.
Mr Clegg said: “I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats given the heavy responsibilities we have had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances.
“But clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared. For that, of course, I must take responsibility.”
In a disastrous night for the party, the Lib Dems suffered decimations across the country losing many of their frontbench MPs. Vince Cable, the business secretary, saw his 12,000 majority in Twickenham overturned, losing to his Conservative Tania Mathias by more than 2,000 votes.
Simon Hughes, the party’s former deputy leader minister lost the Bermondsey seat he had held since 1983, while Energy Secretary Ed Davey was pushed out and Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, also fell.
Jo Swinson, a business minister, also lost her East Dunbartonshire seat in Scotland following a 16 per cent swing to the SNP.
Nick Clegg won the leadership from his rival and friend, Chris Huhne, in 2007 with just 511 votes. But the latest defeats follow a series of policy reversals since the Lib Dems entered coalition with the Conservatives three years later.
The decision to do a deal with the Tories was seen as a betrayal by many voters, who saw Tories as a political opponent. A further decision not to abstain over the issue of raising tuition fees – but instead embrace and argue in favour of the policy – caused further damage to the party.
With just a handful of survivors, who are the possible contenders?
The former party president is popular among the grass roots of the party and has stayed well clear of the coalition government ranks. He has been in Parliament since 2005 and probably goes in to the leadership race as favourite. Mr Farron’s leadership would represent a clear break with the agenda of Nick Clegg.
Health Minister Norman Lamb would be a clear continuity candidate. He took on the social care brief from Paul Burstow in 2012 and was at the heart of major Liberal Democrat policy offers on mental health and the NHS at the general election. The clash with Mr Farron could define the future path of the Liberal Democrats, whether they build back towards a party of government or take up principled opposition from the centre left.
An outside contender, the Scotland Secretary has heavyweight cabinet experience after being brought in to pump up the party’s campaign ahead of last year’s Scottish independence referendum. Mr Carmichael could be hurt by not only being a Scottish MP but also not representing a mainland seat either as the member for Orkney and Shetland.