‘The new dawn of American leadership is at hand’

Barack Obama has become the next president of the United States in a historic day in world politics, telling crowds: “The new dawn of American leadership is at hand”.

After his victory was confirmed he told supporters in his home city of Chicago: “The road ahead will be long. But America I have never been more hopeful.”

John McCain made a magnanimous speech to his supporters earlier this morning.

“A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship,” he said.

“This campaign was and will remain the great honour of my life.”

Things had gone according to the Obama camp’s plan throughout the night, with key states such as Ohio falling in the early hours.

British politicians have rushed to congratulate the president-elect on his victory.

Prime minister Gordon Brown said Mr Obama had run an “inspiration campaign”, saying the Democrat energised politicis with his progressive values.

“I know Barack Obama and I share many values and that we both have determination to show that government can act to help people through these difficult times facing the global economy,” he said.

“And I look forward to working extremely closely with him in the coming months and years”.

Conservative leader David Cameron said: “In electing Barack Obama, America has made history and proved to the world that it is a nation eager for change.

“In these difficult times people everywhere are crying out for change. Barack Obama is the first of a new generation of leaders who will deliver it – he has my whole-hearted congratulations.”

And Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the world looked to Mr Obama to provide leadership on climate change, the global economy and threats to collective security.

“The weight of peoples’ hopes and expectations on Barack Obama is immense,” he said.

Today’s victory marks the end of a gripping and epic race to the White House for Mr Obama, with unprecedented levels of domestic and international attention.

Seventy thousand people gathered in Grant Park, Chicago, to hear Mr Obama make his acceptance speech.

Ecstatic scenes from the park showed a sea of people cheering and dancing as California, Virginia and Washington state all declared for Mr Obama taking him 273 electoral college votes at 04:00BST. He needed 270 to become president.

As of 14:30 BST, his electoral college vote stood at 349.

Mr Obama will become the first black president of the United States. He reaches the White House at an extraordinarily difficult time for the US, with the country fighting two wars and staring at a deep recession.

But Mr Obama’s candidacy was marked by idealistic and inspirational rhetoric, which struck a cord with American voters – especially ethnic minorities and the young.

Analysts were also impressed by his use of small donations and the internet to gather support.

George Bush will continue as president until early January.