It was a night of shocks and – for a number of well-known political faces – particularly painful defeats, as Labour was crushed in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats, too, lost a number of their star players across the UK, alongside other high profile surprises.
As a number of big beasts bade farewell to Westminster, however, there were plenty of new faces too.
Jim Murphy, Labour
If the election has delivered a spectacular result for the Scottish National party, few victories will bring the party more satisfaction than their defenestration of Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader who was also a key figure in the No campaign.
A charismatic native Glaswegian who was Scotland secretary under Brown and became leader of the party in Scotland after the referendum, he brought undeniable energy to Scottish Labour after years in which, according to previous leader Johann Lamont, it had been treated as a “branch office” of the party.
But Murphy also attracted particular vitriol from some nationalists after alleging the SNP had sent “organised mobs” to referendum campaign meetings and with police forced to step up their presence at general election rallies to prevent their being disrupted by protesters.
Earlier this week the SNP suspended a number of members following ugly scuffles at a Murphy campaign event in Glasgow at which he was greeted with shouts of “Judas” and “warmongering scum”.
He has not been universally loved by his own colleagues either, with one Scottish Labour MP, Ian Davidson, saying that Murphy’s victory in the party leadership was a result of a “whispering campaign” he had orchestrated against Lamont, and claiming Murphy had staged “a coup” against her.
The son of a builder, Murphy grew up in Glasgow’s southside housing projects before his father, who had moved the family around the UK in search of work, emigrated to South Africa when his son was 12 – he returned when he was 18. It was growing up poor in Scotland and growing up white in South Africa, he has said, that first sparked his interest in politics.
He was elected to represent East Renfrewshire in as part of Labour’s 1997 sweep to victory, and in his concession speech acknowledged to Kirsten Oswald, the new MP, that he knew what it was like to come from behind to triumph in the seat. In the end his defeat was comprehensive, with Oswald taking 23,013 votes to Murphy’s 19,250. The battle to rebuild Labour in Scotland, he said, would begin on Friday.
Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat
The business secretary, one of the Lib Dems’ most popular and recognisable characters, became one of highest profile scalps of the night with his defeat in Twickenham. In a night of dreadful losses, Cable’s departure will be a huge blow for the Lib Dems and for Cable personally – he had held the seat since 2007 and was one of a very small number of Lib Dems to win more than 50% of the vote in the two previous elections.
Clegg, visiting the constituency in the dying days of the campaign, called Cable a “legend of a man”. But the Tories rallied in the final days to support their candidate Tania Mathias.
Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat
Simon Hughes, an MP for 31 years, has in his time served as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2010-14, and minister of
state at the Ministry of Justice since 2013, but on Thursday night he lost his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat to Labour’s Neil Coyle, formerly policy director at the Disability Alliance.
Hughes got almost 50% of the vote in 2010, and served the constituency for three decades. He who looked crushed as the result came through, another victim of dislike of the coalition and student anger at Nick Clegg’s broken promise over tuition fees.
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat
Ed Davey became the first ministerial scalp of the evening as he lost his Kingston and Surbiton seat to the Conservatives. The energy secretary, who had been tipped as a possible future party leader, lost to Tory candidate James Berry – who got the fulsome support of several Tory big hitters in the runup to polling day, hosting David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson in the last few weeks.
It will come as a huge blow to Davey, who has represented the seat since 1997, and
was defending a majority of 7,560. He became energy secretary in 2012 after the resignation of Chris Huhne after his prosecution for perverting the course of justice. The same year reports emerged that Davey was preparing to challenge for party leadership if Nick Clegg was deposed – a feat he would find significantly more difficult on Friday morning.
Douglas Alexander, Labour
In any other election, the ejection of Labour’s election strategist – with his huge majority of 16,614 in Paisley and Renfrewshire South, claimed on a 60% vote share – would have been almost inconceiveable. The fact that Alexander, who has been shadow foreign secretary since 2010 and was a minister under both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, has been undone by a 20-year-old student makes his defeat unquestionably one of the biggest scalps of the night for the SNP. When Black was born in 1994, Alexander was already working for Brown, as a speechwriter.
The former solicitor’s defeat, while shocking, is not unexpected – the polls have been showing him trailing the SNP since February, with the nationalists painting him as a “career politician” in contrast with the confident and outspoken Black’s fresh face. Like Brown, Alexander is a son of the manse; his sister Wendy Alexander was an MSP, serving for a time as the Labour leader in the Scottish parliament.
In his concession speech, Alexander said Scotland had “chosen to oppose this Conservative government but not place its trust in the Labour party. It will be our responsibility to re-win that trust in the months and years ahead.”
He “could not be more proud” of his local campaign team, he added, but added it had been a “very difficult night” for Labour.
Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat
Jo Swinson first took up a seat in the House of Commons as a fresh-faced 25-year-old, becoming MP for East Dunbartonshire in the Glasgow suburbs. But after a decade that saw her rise from being Nick Clegg’s private secretary to become junior minister for employment relations and equality, she has been unseated by the rampant SNP.
Swinson first won the seat with a majority of 4,061, but in 2010 she only got a majority of 2,184. That was swept away by John Nicolson of the SNP on Thursday night. A long way from being the biggest shock of the evening – the closest Lord Ashcroft poll to the general election had the SNP on 40% and Swinson on 29%, but Swinson was seen as a strong local campaigner and a well-liked MP.
Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat
Despite her diminutive stature Lynne Featherstone has been one of the biggest Lib Dem figures in the coalition. As a Home Office minister, then the Department for International Development, and back at the Home Office again, she played a key role in pushing the 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act and was one of the leading figures behind government policies to end female genital mutilation.
But her constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green has been a key battleground during the 2015 campaign – it was No 94 on Labour’s hit list, with the party hoping to overturn Featherstone’s 6,875 majority. The Labour party was wiped out there in 2010 when voters punished their MP Barbara Roche for her support of the Iraq war and switched to Featherstone, but Catherine West – formerly the leader of Islington council in north London – has taken her place.
Naomi Long, Alliance
Long’s election for the cross-community Alliance party in 2010 in traditionally Protestant East Belfast was seen as a stunning result for a party that had never before had an MP elected to parliament, the more so because she displaced the DUP leader Peter Robinson.
The structural engineer and former Lord Mayor of Belfast was able to capitalise on personal and financial scandals dogging Robinson, and her election reflected what many hoped was the stirrings of post-sectarian politics in Northern Ireland.
The 2012-13 unrest over the flying of the union flag in Belfast badly damaged Alliance in the constituency – the party had supported the city council vote to stop flying the flag every day. But it was the decision by the two main unionist parties to stand a single candidate, uniting their votes, which ended her chances of retaining her seat – though the result, in the end, was closer than many expected.
Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat
Former Home Office minister Norman Baker – who resigned from the role last year after he compared working with home secretary Theresa May to “walking through mud” – had a comfortable majority in Lewes of 7,647 in 2010.
But the maverick MP, who has held Lewes in East Sussex since 1997, was yet another of the wave of Lib Dem MPs who lost their seats in 2015, in his case to research nurse Maria Caulfield.
Esther McVey, Conservative
It was a tight and dirty fight in Wirral West, but when it came to it Esther McVey, the only scouse Tory in the Westminster village, lost her seat to Labour challenger Margaret Greenwood.
In the end there were only 417 votes in it, Greenwood taking 18,898 to McVey’s 18,481. As employment minister working alongside Iain Duncan Smith, she became a figure of hate to many of the poorest in her constituency who blamed McVey for the part she played in sweeping cuts.
Mhairi Black, SNP
Mhairi Black, a third-year politics student at Glasgow University, has prepared for her finals next month in the most extraordinary way – by defeating the man who planned Labour’s entire election campaign, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. In doing so Black, who is 20, has become the youngest MP since 1667.
Her earliest political memory, she has said, is of being taken to the anti-Iraq rally as a child and given a large lollipop. Her campaign was not without controversy – she told a rally she had fantasised about “putting the nut” into Labour councillors, and she described No voters in the independence referendum as “selfish”. It made no difference to her prospects – she has turned his 16,000+ majority into a 5,684 lead of her own.
Her victory speech was delivered with a confidence beyond her years. “The people of Scotland are speaking and it’s time for their voice to be heard at Westminster,” she said. “I make this promise … that is exactly what I plan to do.”
Boris Johnson, Conservative
Hardly a new face to anyone in the UK, the election of Boris Johnson to the parliamentary seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip South nonetheless makes flesh a fantasy that has convulsed Conservative MPs for years, and will only intensify speculation about his possible leadership of the party as the date of David Cameron’s departure draws nearer in the coming term.
In a muted campaign, the new MP’s charisma generated rare enthusiasm on the campaign trail, which many colleagues will hope he can sprinkle over the party more widely. He remains mayor of London for the time being, however – a double-jobbing arrangement which has attracted criticism.
Kirsten Oswald, SNP
In a sign of the SNP’s astonishing recent surge, the woman who will serve as its MP for East Renfrewshire has been a member of the party for less than a year, having joined in June 2014.
Oswald, an HR professional, became active in the party during the independence referendum, serving on the committee of her local Women for Independence group where she was responsible for local food bank collections. She is originally from Dundee, but has lived in East Renfrewshire since 2008 with her husband and two sons.
According to her biography, she is a community councillor, parent councillor, and runs community social media sites, as well as being a keen sports fan in her spare time. “I’m SNP because I believe that the people in Scotland deserve better than the Westminster austerity agenda,” she has said.
Stephen Kinnock, Labour
Stephen Kinnock’s surname makes his election to parliament for the Welsh seat of Aberavon a big story, but it is not simply as the son of Neil and Glenys that the 45-year-old will make a remarkable addition to parliament. The new MP for Aberavon also happens to be the husband of Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, with whom he has two daughters.
A former director at the British Council and World Economic Forum, he is at least used to living apart from his wife, commuting at weekends to Denmark from Switzerland and later London where he worked. “I don’t have anything else to compare it with,” he has said of his unconventional marriage. “It works for us.”
Having not lived in Wales for decades, Kinnock attracted some criticism for his decision to stand just 25 miles from Islwyn and Bedwellty, which his father represented, and was selected for the seat last year only by the narrowest of margins. His victory, however, was emphatic.
This article was written by Esther Addley and Alexandra Topping, for theguardian.com on Friday 8th May 2015 05.42 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010