David Cameron's party secured a majority of 331 seats in a surprise result that "shook British politics to its core", The Times said.
In a speech outside Number 10, David Cameron said he would make Great Britain "greater still", promising to follow through on his campaign pledges to generate jobs, create apprenticeships and build new homes.
Ed Miliband stood down after conceding that the result were "deeply disappointing" for Labour. The Conservatives' Lib Dem coalition partners were all but wiped out, and just before midday a tearful Nick Clegg offered his resignation statement as well.
Nigel Farage also resigned as Ukip leader after losing in the seat of South Thanet to Conservative Craig Mackinlay.
* Conservatives win general election after securing 331-seat majority. David Cameron says he hopes to govern in the interests of the whole UK.
* Ed Miliband stands down after apologising for a "very disappointing and difficult" night for the Labour Party.
* Final result in Scotland sees SNP win 56 out of 59 seats, on high turnout. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy is unseated, and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander loses to 20-year-old student. Alex Salmond wins his seat.
*Nigel Farage loses in Thanet South to Conservative Craig Mackinlay and resigns. Ukip also fails to win Thurrock and Mark Reckless loses Rochester and Strood, but Douglas Carswell holds in Clacton.
* Nick Clegg resigns as Lib Dems lose their deposits across the country. Prominent Lib Dems to fall include Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, David Laws, Simon Hughes, Charles Kennedy, Lynne Featherstone and Ed Davey.
Live election results coverage
1:22pm: David Cameron delivers victory speech outside Number 10
In his victory speech outside Number 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister David Cameron said he believes Britain is "on the brink of something special", as his party added another three seats to take its Commons majority to 329.
The Prime Minister praised Nick Clegg and said that Ed Miliband had called to congratulate him.
Cameron said that he would deliver on his promises to create 3m apprenticeships, cut taxes, build homes, and generate millions more jobs. He also pledged to "deliver that in-out referendum on Europe."
The Prime Minister ended his speech with a promise to make Great Britain "greater still" before returning inside Number 10 with his wife, Samantha Cameron.
12:49pm: Conservatives secure 326-seat majority
Victory in the Cotswolds pulls the Conservatives across the finish line, as the party secures an overall majority. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown received 32,045 votes, defeating Lib Dem Paul Hodgkinson on 10,568 votes.
David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrived at the King's Door entrance of Buckingham Palace for a short audience with the Queen. According to the BBC Royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell, Cameron's conversation with the Queen "will be a short formality" as he is officially reinstated Prime Minister.
12:18pm: Ed Miliband resigns as leader of the Labour party
In a "gracious resignation speech", Ed Miliband has resigned as Labour leader telling party faithful he was "truly sorry" that he did not succeed, but promising he would "never give up" fighting for the Britain in which he believes.
The outgoing leader thanked his supporters for their selfies and said that #Milifandom was the "most unlikely cult of the 21st century", the BBC reports.
Miliband was given a standing ovation as he left the room. He became the third party leader to resign within the space of 60 minutes.
Harriet Harman will become caretaker leader while the party looks for a permanent replacement.
11:50am: Nick Clegg resigns as leader of the Liberal Democrats
A tearful Nick Clegg has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats, describing the party's losses as "simply heartbreaking".
Clegg said that it was too early to assess what had gone wrong in detail and warned that the UK has reached a perilous point. "In the absence of strong and statesmanlike leadership … the existence of our United Kingdom itself is in grave jeopardy."
11:43am: Nigel Farage resigns as leader of Ukip
Nigel Farage has called for electoral reform after Ukip achieved 12 per cent of the vote but only managed to win one seat. The outgoing leader told supporters "I'm a man of my word", having pledged to step down if he failed to win in the constituency of South Thanet.
In his speech, Farage said: "Many of you may think I have been having a bad day but five years ago I was in intensive care after an air crash. That is a bad day.
"On a personal level I feel an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I have never felt happier."
Farage's failure raises "major questions about the future direction of the party", the Guardian says. Farage is expected to nominate Suzanne Evans, the deputy chairperson, as stand-in leader while the party looks for a permanent replacement.
11:01am: Conservatives take 323 seats with 638 counted
The Conservative party has passed 323 seats - the "magic number" for controlling the House of Commons once your take out the Speaker of the House and Sinn Fein, who refuse to take their seats.
Just a few days ago Nick Clegg said it was a "big, fat fib" to suggest the Conservatives could win 323 seats. During a visit to south-west London, the Liberal Democrat leader said: "They are not going to get 323 seats and they know it."
10:39am: Nigel Farage loses in Thanet South
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has lost in the constituency of Thanet South to Conservative Craig Mackinlay, prompting speculation that he will resign, as promised, within ten minutes. Farage has said previously that he should be replaced as leader by a sitting MP, which will mean Douglas Carswell - Ukip's lone representative in Westminster.
10:15am: Cameron delivers 'euphoric speech'
In a speech at Tory HQ, David Cameron has declared the election result "the sweetest victory".
The Prime Minister thanked his campaign team who were heard "cheering and whooping" in footage captured on a smartphone by Spectator magazine. Cameron declared that "the pollsters got it wrong and the commentators got it wrong".
9:35am: Ed Miliband to resign, reports suggest
Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to "stand down shortly", The Guardian reports. Miliband is set to address Labour staff this morning, leading the BBC to speculate that he may use the speech to offer his resignation.
Bookmaker Paddy Power has already offered odds on the next Labour leader with Andy Burnham the favourite at 7/4, from Yvette Cooper at 9/4. Other possible candidates include Chuka Umunna (3/1), Dan Jarvis (6/1) and Tristram Hunt (11/1).
9:08am: Nigel Farrage awaits results
As Nigel Farage waits for the results in his constituency of South Thanet, the Ukip leader has said that the national results underline the peculiarity of the UK's first past the post voting system, in which Ukip, "a party that wins clearly the third [largest] popular share of the vote", has won just one seat so far, for Douglas Carswell in Clacton.
Asked by reporters whether he would follow through with his promise to resign if he fails to secure his seat, Farage replied: "Are you calling me a liar?"
8:31am: Ed Balls loses his seat in shock result
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has lost his Morley and Outwood seat to Conservative candidate Andrea Jenkins by 422 votes.
Balls, who has been an MP since 2005, becomes "the highest profile Labour casualty" on a "terrible election night" for the party, The Guardian says.
In his concession speech following a recount of the ballot, Balls congratulated his political opponents and thanked his campaign team. The outgoing MP said that any personal disappointment he felt was "nothing compared to the sense of sorrow I have about what has happened to Labour"
7:59am: Final results in Scotland see 'astonishing victory' for SNP
The SNP has won a landslide victory in Scotland, claiming 56 out of a possible 59 seats. The SNP took 50 new seats, largely from Labour, which has been left with just one MP in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats also lost nine seats, but managed to hold Orkney and Shetland. The Conservatives held onto Dumfrieshshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale - the only other seat to survive the "SNP tsunami", the BBC reports. The results represent an "astonishing victory" for the SNP, The Guardian says.
7:40am: Recount underway in Ed Balls' constituency
A recount has begun in Ed Balls' constituency of Morley and Outwood amid rumours that the shadow chancellor may have lost his seat by just 300 votes. The recount is expected to take an hour, ITV reports.
Balls earlier admitted that he had "a fight on his hands" after rumours suggested that he may have narrowly lost to Conservative candidate Andrea Jenkyns.
5.45am: David Cameron hails 'one nation' Conservatism
"I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together," says David Cameron, having retained his seat in Witney. He avoids claiming outright victory, but says he hopes to form a government that will govern in the interests of everyone in the UK. After saying that he will work to implement further devolution for Scotland and Wales, Cameron tweets the key message of his speech: "One nation, one United Kingdom - that is how I hope to govern if I am fortunate enough to continue as Prime Minister."
Meanwhile, the BBC has updated its forecast. It now predicts that the Conservatives will end up with 325 seats, which is just enought to secure a majority, assuming that Sinn Fein leave their seats vacant.
5.25am: Ed Miliband apologises to his party
Having held the seat of Doncaster North, the Labour leader gives a short speech in which he acknowledges that the nationwide result has come as a disappointment and apologises to his party's supporters. The next government will face a huge challenge in keeping the country together, he says, and "if we believe in a United Kingdom we should stand up for people in every part of the United Kingdom." The BBC's Andrew Marr says it is "as close to a concession speech as you'll hear".
5.15am: Lib Dem soul-searching begins
After retaining his seat with a much reduced majority, Nick Clegg dropped a strong hint that he will soon resign. He promises to make an announcement about his future later this morning, after talking to party activists. Former leader Paddy Ashdown has sent an email to Lib Dem members, describing a "bitter night" of results."Let us remember what we fought for - liberal values, offering a vibrant, positive, and hopeful alternative for our country," he wrote. "However painful this defeat, our fight for all this party stands for must continue." Ashdown may experience some personal pain: when the exit poll came in he promised to eat his hat if the Lib Dems ended up with only ten seats. They may be lucky to get into double figures.
4.50am: Boris Johnson looks to the future
Having dodged David Dimbleby's inevitable questions about the Conservative party leadership, Boris Johnson turns his attention to the future of the UK. The country, he says, should move towards a federal structure in order to defuse nationalist tensions. He also said that he welcomed the prospect of a referendum on British membership of the EU, to which Cameron has committed himself. Earlier, having won his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, Johnson had said that the British people "have decisively rejected any attempt to take the country back to the 1970s" and "want us to go forward with sensible moderate policies".
4.20am: Nick Clegg arrives at his count
The Lib Dems were not expecting to do well at this election, but they have underperformed even by their own gloomy forecasts. Their seat count may not even get into double figures, and any hopes they may have had of holding the balance of power appear to have evaporated. PA reports that a "grim-faced" Clegg was asked whether he would resign as he arrived at the count in his Sheffield Hallam constituency, but he ignored the question. Some commentators suggest that he may have no choice: reports that he may lose his seat, which had receded in recent days, are doing the rounds once again.
3.30am: Will Ed Miliband keep his job?
Until the polls closed at 10pm last night, few people were predicting that Ed Miliband's position as Labour leader would be under threat. His personal ratings had improved, and he had, it seemed, kept pace with the Conservatives despite an improving economy and doubts about Labour's economic credibility. But the exit poll, and the results that have come in since then, have begun to pile pressure on Miliband. "Every Labour figure being interviewed is being asked if Ed Miliband should stay as leader," The Guardian says. "They have all either sidestepped the question, or said yes, but in private Labour figures are saying something different." Sky's Sophy Ridge says MPs are telling her in private that Miliband must go, and former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw seems less than certain about his leader's future. Describing the results as "pretty depressing", he says "it's up to Mr Miliband to decide his own future".
3am: Nicola Sturgeon talks up anti-Tory pact
The SNP leader hasn't given up hope of deposing David Cameron. "The SNP stand ready and willing to work with Labour to lock David Cameron out of Westminster," she said. Despite the huge SNP advance in Scotland, however, Labour may not have done well enough to keep the Tories out. The exit poll suggests that Labour will end up with 239 seats and the SNP 58, giving them a total of 297. The Conservatives are on course to get 316 on their own.
2.30am: Douglas Alexander loses to a student
The first big scalp of the evening. Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander has lost to the SNP in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, whose new MP is a 20-year-old student. Mhairi Black, who will return to university to complete her exams before taking her seat in the House of Commons, will be the youngest MP since 1667, Buzzfeed reports. The swing from Labour to the SNP has reached 35 per cent in some Scottish constituencies. That compares with a swing from the Conservatives to Labour of about ten per cent in the 1997 landslide.
2.20am: Could the Conservatives get a majority?
The one certainty in this most uncertain of elections was supposed to be that no party could get a majority. Now that too is in doubt. John Curtice, who helped to design the exit poll which predicted that the Conservatives would end up with 316 seats now says that Cameron's party appears to be outperforming even that unexpected forecast. The result in Nuneaton, and highly competitive constituency in which both parties campaigned hard, had been expected to show a two per cent swing to Labour. In fact it produced a two per cent swing to the Tories, and that, says Curtice, could mean that Cameron is on course to command a narrow Commons majority without needing to rely on the support of any other party. The Guardian's Alberto Nardelli agrees. "If anything the exit poll may well have underestimated the number of seats the Tories will win and overestimated Labour's share," he writes. "It's not even out of the question that Cameron may get an overall majority."
1.15am: Will the coalition survive?
Soon after the publication of the exit poll, Michael Gove suggested that David Cameron would be keen to keep the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition alive. "If this exit poll is correct, that gives the Prime Minister considerable authority," Gove said, and he will want "to ensure that we have a strong, stable and secure government that we argued for and that it seems the country has backed". But it is not clear that the Lib Dems will retain enough MPs to make up the numbers, and nor that they would want to stick with the arrangement that appears to have led to their near-wipeout. "if the Lib Dem losses are on the scale suggested, it would leave the party so weakened that it might play no significant role in any post-election dealmaking," the Financial Times suggests. "Those Lib Dem MPs who survive election night may conclude the party needs to rebuild its fortunes in opposition, even were Mr Cameron to offer some kind of deal."
00.25am: Is the exit poll correct?
With only three constituencies having declared, most analysis is still based on the exit poll, which suggests that the Conservatives will be the largest party by a significant margin. But is it accurate? Labour figures are keen to play up doubts, and with good reason. "The Labour tribe – and the polling fraternity – are haunted by the experience of 1992, when the 10pm poll prepared the nation for Prime Minister Neil Kinnock," writes Jonathan Freedland for The Guardian. Nevertheless, he says, "exit polling has come a long way since 1992. Indeed, the exit poll issued in 2010 turned out to have called it just about right." The Daily Telegraph also notes the accuracy of the exit poll at the last general election, but adds a caveat. "Experts conceded that the accuracy of this year’s exit poll could be reduced because of the rise of the SNP in Scotland," it says. And Bloomberg reports that John Curtice, one of the academics involved in compiling the exit poll, has acknowledged that it is "likely to be imprecise and may well be wrong".
11.35pm: Has Ed Balls lost his seat?
The shadow chancellor is reluctant to be drawn on whether the voting is going against him. He had a majority of just 1,100 at the last election, and rumours suggest that the Conservative candidate may have beaten him into second place. "The ballot boxes haven't even arrived," he tells David Dimbleby. "I've fought very hard in my campaign and we'll see what the result is when it arrives."
Balls also repeats an argument earlier advanced by Harriet Harman: that the exit polls suggest that David Cameron and the coalition may have lost their mandate. "Legitimacy is not decided by David Cameron or David Dimbleby," he says, and the voters may not have given the Tories and Lib Dems a majority.
11.30pm: Strong showing for Ukip in north-east
The first three constituencies to declare, all in Sunderland, are safe Labour seats and there are no upsets as far as the winners are concerned. What may unsettle the main parties, and particularly Labour, is that Ukip has come second in all three of them. This is part of Nigel Farage's party's "2020 strategy", in which they position themselves as the natural opposition to Labour in the north and the Conservatives in the south, giving themselves a springboard from which to win seats across the country at the 2020 general election.
10pm: Exit poll gives Conservatives a decisive lead
David Cameron's path to Downing Street appears much smoother than expected, with the exit poll predicting that the Conservatives will win 316 seats in today's general election. They would fall short of the 326 seats needed for a majority (or 323 once Sinn Fein and the speaker are discounted), but would be by far the biggest party.
Labour is forecast to finish in a distant second place, with 239 seats, losing almost all their Scottish seats. The SNP is expected to pick up all but one of the 59 seats on offer north of the border. And the Liberal Democrats - the Conservatives' coalition partners for the past five years - are facing a wretched night. They are expected to lose 47 of their 57 seats, ending up with a mere ten.
Ukip, the Greens and Plaid Cymru are each expected to pick up two seats.
The better-than-expected outcome for the Conservatives, if it is borne out by the result, means that they may try to govern alone as a minority, but the remains of the Lib Dems would give them the slimmest of working majority in the Commons if the two parties agreed a second coalition.