Nick Clegg hints at resignation as Lib Dems face wipe out in UK general election

Deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has hinted that he could be announcing his resignation later today in his acceptance speech for his Sheffield Hallam seat.

Clegg held onto his seat with a majority of around 3,000 but conceded it had been "a cruel and punishing" night for the Lib Dems, saying he would be making further remarks about the implications of this election for both him and his party.

The Liberal Democrats have lost a huge majority of their seats in the general election if exit polls are correct, with their coalition partner in the previous government, the Conservatives, doing much of the damage.

The exit polls have the Lib Dems on a mere 10 seats, down 46 from 2010, although former party leader Paddy Ashdown told the BBC he would "eat his hat" if those figures turn out to be correct.

However, the results for the Lib Dems are not entirely surprising, with polls predicting throughout the election campaign that voters who previously supported the party would be jumping ship.

A swathe of senior Liberal Democrat politicians have lost or are expected to lose their seats. Vince Cable, the business secretary, lost to Conservative MP Tania Mathias in Twickenham. It's been reported that Danny Alexander, who held the post of chief secretary to the Treasury in the previous government, will be voted out in Inverness. Ed Davey, who has been serving as energy secretary in the cabinet, has lost his seat to the Tories and Simon Hughes, another cabinet minister and veteran MP, lost his seat to Neil Coyle from the Labour party in Bermondsey and Old Southwark.

Going into coalition with the Conservatives, as well as facilitating a tripling of tuition fees, has arguably lost the party many traditional voters.

The Liberal Democrats propped up a Conservative-led government following the 2010 election, forming a coalition after five days of negotiations. Nick Clegg has maintained throughout the past five years that the Lib Dems have been a grounding influence on the Conservative party, bringing them from the right to the centre ground.

He committed what many have called "political suicide" early on 2010 however. One of his first acts as deputy prime minister in the new government was to vote in favour of a tripling of university tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,00 despite the fact that during the preceding election campaign, he had signed a pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees, helping his party to maintain its traditional student support base.

This decision has plagued Clegg ever since, and while he apologised for signing the pledge in 2012, he maintains his party have a record to be proud of.

The Lib Dems were influential in the introduction of and passing of legislation legalising gay marriage - all but four of its MPs voted for it. The energy secretary Ed Davey has been praised by environmentalists for his work on UK climate change commitments. The party has also been credited with persuading the government to raise the income tax threshold, taking many poorer people out of tax.

However, these successes will likely be overshadowed by the party's near wipe-out in this election.