Tom Watson has said Theresa May’s authority “has been undermined” by the general election result, which looks set to leave the United Kingdom with a hung parliament.
Labour’s deputy leader has a fraught relationship with Jeremy Corbyn by said voters have “responded well” to the Labour leader’s “honesty, integrity, candor and energy”.
In a shock prediction, the exit poll suggests May will lose her Commons majority and the UK will wake up to a hung parliament.
If the survey is accurate, the Conservatives will win 314 seats, Labour 266, the SNP 34 and the Lib Dems 14.
Speaking after winning re-election in his West Bromwich East seat in the early hours of Friday morning, Watson said: “It is too early to say. But it looks likely to be a very very bad result for Theresa May. She said it’s a fact that if we lose just six seats we will lose our majority and Jeremy Corbyn will be prime minister.
“Well results are still coming in, but we are going to hold her to that. She thought she was going not get a Margaret Thatcher style majority. Well that seems now out of her reach.
“The prime minister fought one of the most negative, pessimistic and defensive campaigns in British history and the British people delivered their verdict on that.
“She said she was strong and stable the public saw she was weak and wobbly. She said she was a bloody difficult woman, she boasted about it, the public saw she was just a woman who was finding it all a bit too bloody difficult.
“Labour fought a people powered campaign, pitting passion and principle agains the Tory’s corporate millions and we did better than many said we would.”
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Watson added: “People responded well to Jeremy Corbyn’s honesty, integrity, candor and energy. Just as they saw Theresa May run away from holding herself to account. They saw through the lies of the Murdoch machine who tried to frighten people into voting Tory.
“I want to see more communities reprinted by Labour MPs and it looks like that might happen. I hope we will see more Labour victories tonight and more Labour supporters celebrating in the hours to come.
“The next few hours and next few days look uncertain. But one thing can be sure, Theresa May’s authority has been undermined by this election, she is a damaged prime minister whose reputation may never recover.
“People in this country were crying out for something more than what the Tories have given us for the last seven years. The want something to hope for. They have responded to a positive campaign. We don’t yet know how this election will turn out. We know the people vote for hope.”