David Cameron has today been named leader of the Conservative party after taking more than two thirds of the votes of grassroots members.

The shadow education secretary took 134,446 of the nearly 190,000 ballots cast, with his rival, shadow home secretary David Davis, winning just 64,398 votes.

Mr Cameron was the favourite to win – he has the backing of more than 105 Tory MPs – and today he said it was a “privilege and an honour” to be named leader, pledging to take forward his “modern, compassionate Conservatism”.

The 39-year-old thanked outgoing leader Michael Howard for giving the party “a sense of discipline and purpose” and also applauded his rival for the “very civilised and decent way in which [the contest] has been conducted”.

For his part, Mr Davis – who had led the seven-month race until the party conference in Blackpool – said he looked at the debates between them as “not just a contest for the leadership, but a preamble to us winning the next general election”.

The 56-year-old Haltemprice & Howden MP added: “The most hopeful thing about this contest is that it has shown our party is democratic, intelligent, civilised, thoughtful and mature – we are a party of principles, a party of ideas, and party that is fit to govern.”

Speaking without notes, and rejecting the dais from which Mr Davis read his speech, Mr Cameron told a packed hall of reporters and MPs at the Royal Academy in London that they would have to “wait and see” on who would be in his shadow cabinet.

But he insisted that Mr Davis, who has experience not only on the shadow front benches but also as party chairman and head of the Commons public accounts committee, would be a “vital part of the team of the future”.

“We will have a very strong shadow cabinet that brings in all the talents of the party, and David Davis is one of the great talents. He has a great role to play,” Mr Cameron said.

The MP for Witney, who has only been an MP for four years, now becomes the fifth Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher resigned, following it the footsteps of John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Mr Howard.

Asked what would make him different from the “losers” before him, Mr Cameron said there was a “great sense of unity and coming together” in the Conservative party that marked it out from years of division.

He admitted they had a “mountain to climb” but when compared to a “backward looking and out-of-date Labour party”, the new Tory leader insisted: “I think we can do it”.