Ed Miliband resigns as Labour Party leader after general election defeat

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. (Reuters/Darren Staples)
Ed Miliband resigned as Labour leader after his party suffered a crushing defeat in the UK General Election on Friday. He accepted “full responsibility” for his party’s defeat.

In an emotionally-charged address, interspersed with repeated applause from supporters, Miliband lauded what he termed the most “united, cohesive, enjoyable campaign I’ve ever been involved in.”

He reserved particular thanks for “all those people who’ve pounded the streets” for the party.

Miliband argued Britain “needs a strong Labour Party,” and said the time had come for "someone else" to take the lead.

READ MORE: UK General Election 2015 LIVE UPDATES

He praised his deputy Harriet Harman, saying she would take over while that “open, honest debate” took place.

To those he met during the campaign, he said: “Thank you for sharing your stories with me ... thank you for the selfies, and the most unlikely cult of the 21st century… Milifandom!”

“While we may have lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away,” he added.

To his party he said: “I am truly sorry I did not succeed.”

“Thank you for the privilege, I joined this party aged 17, I never dreamed I would lead it … it will be a force for change again.”

“Pick yourself up and continue the fight. We’ve come back before and we’ll come back again.”

“When we see injustice, we must tackle it,” he said.

“It is people that make change happen, I will never give up on that cause. I will never give up fighting for the Britain I believe in. I will always be there in that cause with all of you.”

In light of Labour’s abysmal performance in Scotland, and amid rumors of another Scottish independence referendum, Miliband reiterated his commitment to the Union.

“I believe in our United Kingdom, because it is the best way of serving our country,” he said. “All of us in the months ahead must rise to the challenge of keeping our country together.”

Despite Miliband’s expression of confidence in his deputy, it took Harriet Harman little over an hour to announce that she would also be stepping down once a new leader is elected by the party membership.

Labour suffered a humiliating defeat in Scotland, after the SNP won 56 out of 59 contested seats.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is among senior Labour politicians to lose their seat. In a surprise outcome, contrary to pre-election polls, the Conservatives emerged with the largest share of seats. David Cameron is well on his way to securing a majority, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats have suffered humiliating losses.

Projections say Cameron will win 328 seats in total – enough to command a majority in the House of Commons.

Speaking earlier today after winning his Doncaster North seat, Miliband said: “This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour Party.

“We have not made the gains we wanted in England and Wales, and in Scotland we have seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party,” said Miliband, after comfortably securing his own seat with an increased majority.

“I want to say to all the dedicated and decent colleagues in Scotland who have lost their seats that I am deeply sorry for what has happened.

“And I also want to say that the next government has a huge responsibility. It has a huge responsibility in facing the very difficult task of keeping our country together.”

“Whatever party we come from, if we believe in the United Kingdom we should stand up for people in every part of our United Kingdom because I believe that what unites us is much, much more than what divides us.”

In the early hours after the poll results came in, some Labour Party members had said it wasn’t the time to replace Miliband and that the blame for Labour’s defeat, most notably in Scotland, couldn’t be pinned on him alone.

Labour will now face a leadership contest, with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, Shadow Justice Minister Dan Jarvis, Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna considered potential successors.

The Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg have been decimated in the election. Clegg called it a “cruel and punishing night” for his party.