Ed Miliband has quit as Labour leader after a dramatic election night where his party was virtually wiped out in Scotland and David Cameron was on the way to a Commons majority.
Reflecting on the devastating results after 30 seconds of applause, Mr Miliband said he took “absolute and total responsibility” for the result, offering apologies to big Labour beasts including Ed Balls and Jim Murphy who were defeated overnight.
“Britain needs a Labour Party that can rebuild after this defeat so that we can have a government that stands up for working people again,” he said.
“Now it is time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party so I am tendering my resignation taking effect after this afternoon’s commemoration of VE Day at the Cenotaph.
“I want to do so straight away because the party needs to have an open and honest debate about the right way forward without constraint.”
His announcement came after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Ukip’s Nigel Farage announced they were standing down in the wake of one of the biggest general election shocks since the Second World War.
Rather than breaking through as forecast by opinion polls, Labour saw losses to the Tories in key marginal seats and failed to win the Conservatives most vulnerable constituencies.
Harriet Harman MP, who is becoming acting leader of the Labour Party, said she would quit the party leadership role when the new leader is appointed.
She said: “I would like to pay tribute to Ed Miliband for his leadership of the Labour Party and to express the gratitude that party members feel for his leadership and for his decency, his commitment and his constant striving for a fairer country.
“On the resignation of Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party I, as his deputy, am stepping forward to be acting leader until a new leader is elected by the party.
“It is not my intention to stay on as deputy leader of the Labour Party when the new leader is elected. Therefore, I am announcing that I am stepping down as deputy leader - with my resignation taking effect when the new leader and deputy leader are elected.
“With a new leadership team in place, after what has undoubtedly been a serious defeat, the Labour Party will be best placed to be the strong opposition this country needs - defending our NHS and our public services, and fighting for fairness, equality and social justice.
“That determination will be all the fiercer in the face of this Tory government.”