Nick Clegg is the sole survivor of a Liberal Democrat electoral bloodbath that has seen almost every major party figure lose their seat.

Simon Hughes and former leader Charles Kennedy were both unseated in constituencies that they had held for more than three decades, as voters punished the Liberal Democrats for their alliance with the Conservatives.

Business secretary Vince Cable lost the seat in Twickenham that he has held since 1997 while Lynne Featherstone was ousted in Honsey and Wood Green. Danny Alexander, one of the main architects of the coalition in 2010 was also soundly beaten in his Scottish constituency.

Exit polls on Thursday night predicted that the Liberal Democrats would win just 10 seats out of the 57 it held, a prediction that prompted party veteran Paddy Ashdown to promise to eat his hat on live TV if the polls turned out to be true.

But within hours, Liberal Democrats were speaking of results that could be in the single digits after losing dozens of seats to the Conservatives and the SNP.

At a subdued victory speech in Sheffield Hallam, where Clegg clung on to his seat, he said that the night had been a brutal one for the Liberal Democrats and suggested that he would speak to the party Friday about his future.

Even in seats that they did not look to win, the Lib Dems were down as much as 24% in some constituencies compared to their results in 2010.

Christina Jebb in Nuneaton won just 816 votes, a drop of over 6,000 since the last election.

They are poised to win just 10 seats according to exit polls, down from 57 in the 2010 election that saw them enter coalition with the Conservative Party.

That decision, which Clegg was largely responsible for selling the project to his party, and its impact will undoubtedly lead to questions about whether he can continue to lead the Liberal Democrats after the election.

In many constituencies, the party gained such a small share that they lost their £500 deposits for the first time in a decade, failing to pass the 5% minimum threshold.

At the last count, the Lib Dems had already lost as much as £60,000 in deposits paid for candidates.

William Powell, a Lib Dem Welsh Assembly member, said he was "deeply sorry at the loss of colleagues who deserve better."