Vince Cable on the wrong end of some pro-Tory voting

General election 2015: The ten biggest scalps of election night

General election 2015: The ten biggest scalps of election night

The national picture has produced a surprising national result, but the last few hours have been equally shocking for the large number of big names whose political careers have been unceremoniously halted. Here's our view of the top ten.

Ed Balls

There's no doubt the defeat of the man who had hoped to be running the nation's finances is the biggest single story of the night. Ed Balls' team felt so strongly about the result that they requested a recount, before the Conservatives' 350-odd majority was confirmed. Balls offered a gracious loser's speech in which he spoke of his personal "sorrow" and voiced concern about the future of the Union, Britain's involvement in Europe and the NHS. His disappearance from Westminster means he is relegated to the position of Yvette Cooper's spouse, and nothing more. It's an astonishing fate for the man the Tories loved to hate.

Jim Murphy

The Scottish Labour leader's demise is symbolic of his failure in Scotland. He may not have been in government, but it was Murphy's task to first stem the flow of votes from Labour to the SNP and then start clawing back the popularity lost in last year's independence campaign. In that task he has spectacularly failed. He offered a gracious speech after being defeated and has vowed to continue in the job – but will not be doing so from the green benches of the Commons.

Vince Cable

It's ironic, after so many column inches devoted to his leadership machinations, that the man most visibly uncomfortable with being in government with the Conservatives won't even be around to put himself forward as a successor to Nick Clegg. The business secretary's defeat is a huge loss to his party. He didn't contribute much to the election campaign but did raise eyebrows by suggesting the Lib Dems should have more seats in Cabinet after the election. How absurd that claim seems now.

Danny Alexander

Everyone saw this one coming. The writing was on the wall for the chief secretary to the Treasury, who even with help from some tactical voting unionists just wasn't able to cobble together anything like the support he needed to stay in Westminster. Yet, as he's just told the BBC, he says he can be "proud" of the stability his party has provided in government. His is an honourable exit, not a shameful one.

Ed Davey

Another Lib Dem Cabinet casualty, the energy and climate change secretary's departure from parliament ends the speculation heard during the campaign that he might be a possible leadership candidate. Davey was never the kind of politician to really electrify voters – and he's succumbed to a Tory campaign in Kingston and Surbiton which left him comprehensively unplugged.

Douglas Alexander

This was a man who was hoping to become foreign secretary in just a few days' time. Instead Labour's general election campaign coordinator is out of a seat. Those three million conversations obviously weren't enough.

Esther McVey

The only Conservative in our list, McVey's unpopular policies as a minister at the Department for the Work and Pensions surely contributed to her demise. She was viewed as having pushed through policies like the bedroom tax which hit the disabled and, having only been elected for the first time in 2010, now sees her parliamentary career ended. It was close, though: another 500 votes and McVey would have been looking at a potential spot in the Cabinet.

Jo Swinson / Lynne Featherstone

These Lib Dem ministers fell victim to very different enemies. Swinson lost out against the SNP, unable to effectively stand against the SNP tidal wave, while Featherstone lost out to the Labour party's Catherine West.

George Galloway

Earlier this week Respect's only MP was bragging confidently that he would hold on in Bradford. Perhaps this misplaced confidence helps explain exactly why he was looking so glum when the result came through. Gorgeous George is gorgeous no more.

Kenny Selbie

Not a name you may have heard mentioned – but then the significance of Kirkcaldy was always that this was the seat being vacated by Gordon Brown, not the poor man selected to replace him. Voters in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath haven't been represented by any other party than Labour for eight decades, but that all ends today as the SNP's Roger Mullin takes charge. It just sums up the unprecedented swathe of successes enjoyed by the SNP on a night when – in Ed Miliband's words – they have "overwhelmed" Labour.