Thursday night was a disaster for opposition parties: the BBC projects Conservatives to take 331 of 650 seats in the House of Commons, with their primary rival the Labour Party, believed for weeks to be marching into election night to a near tie, squeaked by with 232 seats. (The Liberal Democrats nabbed just eight seats.)
The loss was so embarrassing that both Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader (and deputy prime minister) Nick Clegg resigned Friday. The Guardian has a good summation of how Conservatives were able to pull off their win:
The result was a vindication of Cameron’s much criticized decision to run a largely negative campaign, stressing the risks to Britain’s still-fragile economic recovery of a Labour government that would overspend and drive away investors through taxes aimed at the wealthy and their tax-avoiding practices.
But the prime minister’s victory was partly the product of a relentless Conservative campaign to highlight the dangers of a Labour minority government propped up by the left-leaning SNP in Scotland and this polarizes Britain in an unprecedented way. Critics have protested that the outcome, a tactical success in England, could accelerate the break-up of the United Kingdom.
Also of note was that on the strength of leader Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party took 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats, effectively wiping out the Labour Party’s hold over the country. As the Times notes, the likelihood of another Scottish independence referendum appears “inevitable.”