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Opinion polls had suggested she had a commanding lead over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, but Corbyn will be judged more of a victor than May.

But even if it had joined together in a so-called progressive alliance with the SNP, Lib Dems, Green Party and Plaid Cymru, it would only have reached 313 seats - short of the 326 figure. The DUP said only that it would enter talks.

But the party's gains in London and Scotland were tempered by notable losses, including former leader Nick Clegg, a one-time deputy prime minister.

Speculation has been mounting over a leadership challenge following poor general election results which saw her party lose its majority.

In a resignation statement on the Conservative Home website, Timothy conceded that the campaign had failed to communicate "Theresa's positive plan for the future", and missed signs of surging support for the opposition Labour Party.

With Brexit Secretary David Davis and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon also staying put, there were suggestions changes could just centre on replacing the eight ministers who lost their seats as the Tory Commons tally fell to 318. The formal Brexit negotiations were scheduled to start on June 19, when UK Brexit secretary David Davis would meet with European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

The win took Labour's tally to 262 MPs as Jeremy Corbyn's party soared to a 40% share of the popular vote.

But May, facing scorn for running a lacklustre campaign, was determined to hang on.

Former Newsnight correspondent and Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason said communities had been "f***** over" by Theresa May's government.

Rather than resign, May quickly grabbed the lifeline of an alliance with the DUP, which won 10 seats. Investors worry a minority Conservative government would be weaker in Brexit talks, scheduled to begin June 19.

"It's a bit of a mess", Peter Morgan, 35, said in London.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a good campaigner
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a good campaigner

"If, as the indications have shown, if this is correct, that the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes, then it will be incumbent on us to ensure we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do", May said. May will likely have to make compromises to win the DUP's backing.

"We need a government that can act", he told German radio.

Markets are already indicating that the whole future of Britain's exit from the European Union has clouded over.

But there was little sympathy from some other Europeans.

Ahead of the election, all three of the country's main national parties had pledged to raise funding for science, an unusual consensus that reflects the difficulties United Kingdom research may face as a outcome of Brexit.

Asked if Mrs May should lead the Tories into the next election, Mr Grayling said: "The next election is a question for her".

"A working government is needed as soon as possible to avoid a further drop in the pound", said ING currency strategist Viraj Patel in London.

"We're surrounded by all these colleagues in the media and they don't understand a f******, a f******* single iota of what I've just said".

Seeking to capitalise on sky-high popularity ratings, she called the election a few weeks later, urging voters to give her a stronger mandate. At that point, polls predicted she would massively increase the slim majority she had inherited from Cameron.

Corbyn, 68, may not have dislodged May in the polls but the Labour Party's strong showing prompted him to demand her resignation, saying she "lost votes, lost support and lost confidence" of the people. Corbyn accused the Conservatives of undermining Britain's security by cutting the number of police on the streets. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

He said there was no public wish for a "race to the bottom Brexit".

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