In an election that opinion polls predicted was too close to call, the outcome was suddenly and startlingly clear. David Cameron is back in Downing Street and this time as prime minister of a Conservative majority government, his party having taken many seats from its former coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. Cameron's victory comes as a huge surprise, after opinion polls throughout the campaign put his Conservatives and their Labour rivals neck-and-neck. All indications pointed to a hung parliament, with no party winning an overall majority. Why did the Conservatives do better than expected? Six reasons are explained below.

First, the Tories benefited from the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland. Labour held on to only one of its former 41 parliamentary seats out of Scotland's 59. Despite losing the referendum on Scottish independence last September, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) won 56 seats, a staggering increase from just six before the election. Capitalizing on widespread Scottish voter antipathy toward the Cameron-led coalition, the SNP skillfully positioned itself as the natural alternative to the Tories in Scotland. Hoping to deprive Labour of electoral support, the Conservatives and their friends in the press were only too happy to encourage the SNP surge.

Second, it wasn't just in Scotland that Labour failed to connect with voters. Outside London, Labour made few significant gains in England. Despite confounding his critics and performing better in election debates than expected, Labour leader Ed Miliband ultimately couldn't convince voters that he was better able to lead Britain than Cameron. Miliband partly suffered from carefully coordinated attacks in the Tory media, painting him alternatively as "Red Ed" — the socialist scourge who would allow the SNP to dismantle the United Kingdom — or as an incompetent nerd, literally lacking the skill to eat a bacon sandwich.