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  1. ITV Report

From Dumbartonshire to Twickenham: the huge scale of the Lib Dem collapse

ITV News Political Correspondent Emily Morgan reports:

Nick Clegg has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats following the party's "heartbreaking" losses overnight.

It is simply been heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents so diligently, over so many years, abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.

...Clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared. For that I must take responsibility and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

– Nick Clegg

The Liberal Democrats knew they were going to take a hit in this General Election but Mr Clegg had remained upbeat and even claimed his party would be the "surprise" of the night.

How wrong he was.

ITV News Correspondent Joel Hills explains what caused the party's collapse in its south-west heartlands:

While he held on to his Sheffield Hallam seat, the Lib Dem leader had to watch as some of his most senior colleagues lost their constituencies in a remarkable night that reduced the party to rump.

Earlier in the evening, former leader Paddy Ashdown had said he would "eat his hat" if the Exit poll which predicted the party would endure a collapse from 57 seats in 2010 to just 10 seats proved correct.

However by the early hours of the morning, it looked as though the Lib Dems would struggle to reach 10 MPs and Ashdown had written a letter to members about a "bitter night".

"It's painfully clear this has been a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats," Clegg said after winning his constituency, before hinting he might be making another announcement soon about his leadership.

His party has paid the price for the decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives but perhaps nobody expected the backlash to be quite so vicious as it has been.

Even in seats where the Lib Dems did not expect to win, their support dropped by as much as 25%.

The scale of the party's fall from grace could be measured by a Twitter account set up after polling ended which registered the amount that the Lib Dems lost in deposits.

The party won such small shares of the votes in some constituencies that they failed to register the minimum 5% threshold needed to hold onto theior £500 deposit. By 4.30am, @LibDemDeposits claimed the party had lost £61,000.

Former deputy leader Simon Hughes was unceremoniously dumped from the Bermondsey seat he had held for 30 years whilst whilst an incredible swing to the Conservatives ended Vince Cable's tenure in Twickenham, which he had represented since 1997.

Before their defeats, the former crime prevention minister Lynne Featherstone lost Hornsey and Wood Green to Labour.

More was to follow in the capital when another former Cabinet member Ed Davey suffered at the hands of the conservatives in Kingston.

With the collapse in England and the huge surge of SNP support in Scotland, it looked likely that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander would also be staring into the abyss.

And just before 6am, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury became the latest scalp, losing Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey to the rampant SNP, his defeat following that of former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy in the Ross, Skye and Lochaber constituency he had represented since 1983.

David Laws soon followed as his Yeovil seat fell to the Conservatives.

In his letter to party members, Lord Ashdown said: "Last night was a bitter night for Liberal Democrats. Perhaps most bitter of all, the results do not do justice to your hard work, dedication or passion.

"In 2010 we put the country before our party, and we should be very proud of everything that we, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have achieved.

These will be tough days ahead for our party, and they could be tough times for our country too.

But Liberal Democrat resilience has battled through time and time again, and I genuinely believe that, while diminished in Parliament, our voice will be heard again and is needed now more than ever."

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