Nick Clegg is this morning considering his position as leader of the Liberal Democrats after his Sheffield Hallam majority was slashed - and his party devastated - in a dramatic election night.
Mr Clegg’s own majority was cut from more than 15,000 to just 2,353 by Labour’s Oliver Coppard shortly after 4.30am,
The former Deputy Prime Minister was heckled and booed as he spoke from the podium at Attercliffe’s English Institute of Sport, and praised Mr Coppard for a ‘dynamic’ campaign.
Mr Clegg said it was ‘painfully clear that this has been a cruel and punishing night’ with ‘profound implications’ for the Liberal Democrats.
He added: “I will be seeking to make further remarks about the implications of this election for the country, and for the party, and for my position.”
He said he would be speaking to his party colleagues later this morning in Westminster before making an announcement.
Mr Clegg left the count immediately after the result and did not answer when asked if he would stand down.
When he arrived, media had crowded the entrance to the count, only for him to come in through a side door.
Other Liberal Democrat losses over the night included Business Secretary Vince Cable and Energy Secretary Ed Davey.
In Sheffield Lib Dem peer Lord Paul Scriven, former leader of Sheffield Council, said: “Of course I’m disappointed, not just here in Hallam to see Nick’s majority reduced but across the country where we’ve been seeing really good hard-working MPs go,
“Nick made it very clear that he is going to talk to the party so I wouldn’t want to speculate but I will say this, I am a close friend of Nick Clegg and he is a man who in the most difficult of circumstances stood up to the plate, sorted out the economy and stopped the Tories from doing some really unpalatable things.
“Now if the Liberal Democrats are not in Goverment and the Tories are, people will see the kinds of things the Tories want to do, and maybe in a few months or years they will look back and be a little more sympathetic and realise the kind of things he did to bring about a sense of fairness.”
The turnout in Hallam was 76.85 per cent, higher than in 2010, and it was reported that polling stations in student areas had been particularly busy.
Oliver Coppard, who secured 19,862 votes, was hoping to win the constituency for Labour for the first time in its history.
On polling day more than 200 people from across the country came to Hallam to aid his campaign.
Mr Coppard said after the result: “I’m really proud of the campaign we ran, and I’m really grateful for all the support we received.
“Of course I am disappointed - I think the result was close because people did feel let down but they have said very clearly what MP they want to represent the community and I wish him the best of luck.”
Nick Clegg - 22,215
Oliver Coppard - 19,862
Ian Walker - 7544
Joe Jenkins - 3575
Peter Garbutt - 1772
Carlton Reeve - 249
Steve Clegg - 167
Jim Stop The Fiasco Wild - 97