Cameron mulls make-up of new cabinet

Cameron

David Cameron is spending the weekend finalising his first all-Conservative cabinet after his party won a majority in Thursday’s election.

The PM has already reappointed Chancellor George Osborne, who has also been made first secretary of state.

Theresa May remains home secretary, Philip Hammond foreign secretary, and Michael Fallon defence secretary.

The Conservatives won 331 seats – five more than needed for a Commons majority – their first such victory since 1992.

‘One nation’

Rival party leaders Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage all resigned on Friday after election disappointments, leaving their parties to consider who is best placed to lead opposition to the new government.

Mr Cameron, who promised to lead a government for “one nation”, has already spoken to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, whose party won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.

The SNP is expected to press for even more devolved powers for the Scottish parliament, going beyond what was proposed by the Smith Commission after last year’s independence referendum.

The new Westminster Parliament – which meets for the first time on 18 May – will see a record number of female and ethnic representatives, with 191 women (up from 143) and 42 from an ethnic minority (up from 27).

Meanwhile, the prime minster will need to replace Lib Dems who held cabinet posts in the coalition government – such as former Business Secretary Vince Cable, schools minister David Laws and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander – who all lost their seats in Thursday’s vote.

EU referendum

The Conservatives’ victory means they will be able to govern without the need for a coalition or a formal agreement with other parties.

Leading Eurosceptic backbencher Mark Pritchard told the BBC there would be no pressure for the prime minister to rush into discussions about an in-out referendum on the UK’s future in Europe.

The prime minister pledged a referendum on EU membership in the event his party scored a majority.

Mr Pritchard said Mr Cameron would need time to try to negotiate new terms for the UK membership of the EU.

“The party will be 100% behind the PM as he goes off to Brussels to fight for Britain, and indeed fight for an improved European Union,” he said.

In other election developments:

  • With all 650 seats declared, the Conservatives secured 331 seats in the House of Commons, 24 more than in 2010. Labour have 232, the Lib Dems 8, the SNP 56, Plaid Cymru 3, UKIP 1, the Greens 1 and others 19
  • The Conservatives get a 36.9% share of the UK national vote, Labour 30.4%, UKIP 12.6%, the Lib Dems 7.9%, the SNP 4.7%, the Green Party 3.8% and Plaid Cymru 0.6%
  • Ed Miliband stepped down after a “difficult and disappointing” night for Labour which saw Ed Balls lose and Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander defeated by the SNP
  • Nick Clegg said he would quit as leader after a “crushing” set of losses, which saw Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, David Laws, Simon Hughes and Charles Kennedy among a slew of Lib Dem casualties
  • Nigel Farage quit as UKIP leader after failing to be elected – although he may stand in the ensuing leadership contest. He has recommended Suzanne Evans take over as interim leader
  • George Galloway, who was reported to the police for retweeting an exit poll before voting ended, has lost to Labour in Bradford West
  • Conservative minister Esther McVey was the highest-profile Tory loser, defeated by Labour in Wirral West as Boris Johnson returned to the Commons
  • The Green Party gets one seat after Caroline Lucas retains the Brighton Pavilion constituency she won in 2010
  • Turnout is set to be 66%, marginally up on 2010 and the highest since 1997
  • An inquiry is to be held into the mismatch between opinion polls during the campaign and the actual result
  • Watch BBC election coverage and follow latest reaction
  • Read more analysis from the BBC’s experts
  • Find your constituency’s result

On Friday, Mr Cameron said he had spoken to both Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg, paying tribute to the latter’s contribution to the coalition government over the past five years.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: “We will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom.

“That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country, from north to south, to east to west.”

He said he would press ahead with devolution of powers to all nations as well as referendum on the UK’s EU membership.

“I have always believed in governing with respect,” he said “That’s why in the last Parliament we devolved power to Scotland and Wales, and gave the people of Scotland a referendum on whether to stay inside the United Kingdom.

“In this Parliament I will stay true to my word and implement as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

Chancellor Mr Osborne said the Conservatives had been “given a mandate to get on with the work we started five years ago” and would follow the “clear instructions” of the British public.

‘Dark hour’

Speaking at Labour’s London headquarters, Mr Miliband said he had phoned Mr Cameron to congratulate him on his victory.

He said he would step down as leader with immediate effect after Labour won 26 fewer seats than in 2010, adding that deputy leader Harriet Harman would succeed him pending a leadership contest.

Labour, he said, needed an “open and honest debate about the way forward without constraints”.

Announcing his own exit as leader after more than seven years, Mr Clegg said the results – which saw his party reduced from 57 to eight seats – were the most “crushing blow” to the Liberal Democrats since they were formed in the late 1980s.

Elsewhere, Mr Cameron has been congratulated on his victory by a number of foreign leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said he would work constructively with the new UK government and would consider “proposals, ideas or requests” about the UK’s membership “in a very polite, friendly and objective way”.

An independent inquiry is to look at the accuracy of UK election polls, after they failed to predict the Conservatives’ lead over Labour.