Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party won a surprisingly solid victory in the British general election on Thursday, with projections and partial results Friday morning showing that the party will at a minimum come close to winning an overall majority in Parliament.
Even if the Conservatives fall short of a majority,. Cameron now appears all but certain to remain prime minister, with the choice of working with at least two smaller parties or trying to run a minority government.
The vote was a significant disappointment for the Labour Party and its leader, Ed Miliband, who saw his hopes of ejecting Cameron from Downing Street dissipate overnight.
Labour was nearly wiped out in Scotland by the surging Scottish National Party and did poorer than pre-election polls had suggested it would in the rest of Britain.
“We haven’t made the gains that we wanted in England and Wales,” he said, “and in Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party.”
The results were also a disaster for Nick Clegg and the centrist Liberal Democrats, who have been the junior partner in coalition with the Conservatives. The results raised questions about whether Mr. Miliband and Mr. Clegg might have to resign as leaders of their parties.
The latest projections by the BBC, based on incomplete results and a national exit poll, put the Conservatives at 329 seats, three more than an absolute majority in the 650-member House of Commons. Should the Conservatives win 329 seats when all the votes are tallied later on Friday, it would be a gain of 22 seats from the last election, in 2010.
Speaking in his electoral district after his re-election, Mr. Cameron said it was “clearly a very strong night for the Conservative Party,” though he added that it was too soon to say exactly what sort of result there will be when all the results are declared.
The projections put the Labour total at 233 seats, a decline of 25 seats from the 2010 results. The Scottish National Party was projected to be on track to have won 56 of 59 seats in Scotland, rolling over Labour. In 2010, the Scottish nationalists won only six seats.
The leaders of five of the political parties in Britain cast their votes on Thursday in what is expected to be an unusually tight general election. By Reuters on Publish Date May 7, 2015. Photo by Toby Melville/Reuters.
The projected success for the Scottish party, which favors independence for Scotland, was met Thursday night on Glasgow’s streets with the intermittent cheering and jeering reminiscent of soccer fans celebrating their favorite club.
Many in Glasgow seemed to think that another independence referendum appeared inevitable, despite the defeat of a referendum last year.
For Mr. Cameron, the results appeared to be a vindication after a campaign in which opinion polls consistently showed Labour running even with the Conservatives.
But even if the final results give him the ability to govern without a coalition partner, he will face immense challenges, not least in holding off calls from Scotland for independence and in managing pressure from within his own party for Britain to leave the European Union.
Mr. Cameron has promised to try to renegotiate terms of Britain’s membership in the 28-nation European bloc and to hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether Britain should remain in the European Union.
The results are also likely to fuel calls for a change to Britain’s electoral system to better represent national voting patterns.
The Scottish National Party, which is fielding candidates only in Scotland, is likely to benefit from the British electoral system in which parties compete in 650 districts but the votes of those not elected count for nothing. The party is forecast to become the third-largest party in Parliament, with less than 5 percent of the nation’s votes.
By contrast, the right-wing populist U.K. Independence Party, expected to draw many more votes across the rest of Britain, is likely to win just a few seats.