British Prime Minister David Cameron won a stunning election victory on Friday, confounding forecasts that the vote would be the closest in decades and winning a clear majority that left his Labour opponents in tatters.
The sterling currency, bonds and shares surged on a result that reversed near-universal expectations of an inconclusive "hung parliament", in which Cameron would have had to jockey for power with Labour rival Ed Miliband.
Instead, Cameron met Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace to accept a mandate to form the first majority Conservative government since John Major's surprise victory in 1992.
Despite the unexpectedly decisive outcome, longer-term uncertainty looms over whether Britain will stay in the European Union - and even hold together as a country. Secessionists swept the board in Scotland, and Cameron repeated a promise to hold a referendum on membership in the EU.
The scale of Cameron's victory surpassed even his party's most optimistic projections.
"This is the sweetest victory of all," Cameron told enthusiastic supporters at party headquarters. "The real reason to celebrate tonight, the real reason to be proud, the real reason to be excited is we are going to get the opportunity to serve our country again."
Smiling beside his wife Samantha, Cameron returned to the prime minister's office in Downing Street after meeting the Queen. Staff lined up to applaud when he entered the residence.
Cameron's pitch to voters was that he had rescued Britain from economic crisis to deliver the fastest growth among major economies. He had warned that Labour's Miliband would cripple the United Kingdom by giving Scottish nationalists the keys to England's treasure.
In early appointments to his cabinet, he retained George Osborne as finance minister, sticking with the man credited with overseeing recovery from the economic crash.
Miliband, a self-confessed socialist "geek", had argued that the recovery was benefiting the rich and most people were still worse off. But he failed to connect with working class voters or convince the public he could be trusted with the world's fifth largest economy. He phoned Cameron to concede and then resigned as party leader.
With all results declared in the 650-seat house, the Conservatives held 331 and Labour 232. The center-left Liberal Democrats, who supported Cameron in government since 2010, were all but wiped out, reduced to eight seats from 57.
Scottish nationalists won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats, up from just six five years ago.