Britain's election: Newspapers say PM Cameron's toughest fight is yet to come

British PM David Cameron delivering a statement at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on May 8, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
British PM David Cameron delivering a statement at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on May 8, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's Saturday newspapers said Prime Minister David Cameron's election win was a remarkable triumph of quiet conservatism, but leaves him facing battles to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom and Britain in the European Union.

The Conservative centre-right prime minister's second term in office is set to be much tougher than his first, despite winning a surprise majority in Parliament, the papers warned.

They also reflected on how the defeated centre-left Labour and centrist Liberal Democrat parties could rebuild after the vote, which saw both of their leaders resign in a matter of hours.

The Times said Mr Cameron would need "every ounce of statesmanship" to surmount the challenges facing him in what he has pledged will be his last term in office. "Britain's voters issued a crushing verdict on the record of two major national parties, handed power to a third and launched a revolution in Scotland," its editorial said.

The left-wing secessionist Scottish National Party (SNP) won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats.

Meanwhile the anti-European Union, anti-mass immigration UK Independence Party came third in the share of the vote (12.6 per cent) but secured just one of the 650 seats.

"The forces behind this upheaval were shy Tories, boisterous Scottish nationalists and UKIP supporters whose protests will not go away," The Times said.

"They have been mobilised in defence of radically different visions of the British Isles.

"It is time for Mr Cameron to find his inner Churchill... his majority is slim and using it will not be easy. His real work starts now."

The Guardian, which backed Labour, said Mr Cameron must now put country before party following his opinion poll-defying win.

It said the Conservatives' "economic record and leadership" enabled it to capture enough English moderates to claim a "remarkable - if wafer-thin" majority.

"He will need far greater wisdom, consistency and vision than he displayed in his first term if, in what will be his second and final term, he is to bring the country back together."

The Independent, which wanted a more liberal version of the outgoing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, said Mr Cameron must work quickly to stop a declining power fragmenting fast.

"The strange death of liberal Britain," it said, alluding to the Lib Dems' collapse.

It said the Conservatives' majority was "galling" and "hollow".

"The 2015 General Election was a watershed which will determine whether we are to remain together as one United Kingdom - and one United Kingdom that can look forward to a future with its closest European neighbours."

It urged Labour and the Lib Dems to "start thinking about a truly progressive coalition of their two parties".

The Financial Times' front page read "Cameron's one nation mission", adding that keeping the UK together and Britain's place in the EU would define the Conservatives' second term.

In the conservative papers, the Daily Mail's front page said: "This was YOUR victory."

It added: "How Middle England rose up to humiliate pollsters and save the nation from Red Ed" - referring to Labour leader Ed Miliband.

The Daily Telegraph editorial continued the theme, saying: "Cameron's appeal to quiet conservatism has triumphed."

Erroneous neck-and-neck opinion polls before the vote had "subscribed to an inherent left-of-centre bias that infects much of the public discourse in this country and embraces a set of values that are simply not shared by most people", it said.

"These hidden Tories did not declare themselves; and why should they when they merely invite derision from a claque of left-wingers who shout, tweet and blog, but succeed only in reinforcing their own delusions?"

It said Mr Cameron's "next five years are likely to prove far more onerous than the last".

The Daily Star concentrated on UKIP, with its front page headline reading: "Stitched up like a Kipper!", concentrating on their sole seat for 3.9 million votes.

The staunch Labour-supporting Daily Mirror tabloid's front-page headline dodged the election, reading: "I'll give birth to my dead daughter's baby."