A devastated Ed Miliband has resigned from the Labour party, saying he is truly sorry for the scale of the party’s crushing defeat.
In an emotional speech, Miliband said it was time for someone else to take over as leader but called on the party to keep fighting, rather than give in to despair.
“I take absolute and total responsibility for our defeat. I am so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats,” he said on Friday.
He said the party now needed an “open and honest debate” about the best way of rebuilding after the heavy losses, particularly to the Scottish National party.
In a night of tribulation and tears, Labour lost all but one of its seats in Scotland – including those of the Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy, and the party’s campaign manager, Douglas Alexander. Overall, the party is down by about 25 seats, making it a worse defeat than under Gordon Brown in 2010. The most surprising result of the night was the unexpected defeat of the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, one of the few genuine big beasts of the party.
Having phoned David Cameron to concede, Miliband called on his supporters and activists not to lose heart, even if they were now feeling “bleak”.
“While we may have lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away. The issue of our unequal country will not go away,” he said.
“This is the issue of our time, the fight goes on and, whoever is our new leader, I know Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again.”
Ending on a defiant note, he said: “This party has come back before and will come back again.”