Ken Clarke recorded laying into Tory leadership candidates

Tory veteran Ken Clarke. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Tory veteran Ken Clarke. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
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Former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke launched blistering assaults on most of the main contenders in the Conservative leadership race today.

In apparently unguarded remarks broadcast by Sky News, he described Home Secretary Theresa May as “a bloody difficult woman”, said Justice Secretary Michael Gove would take the country to war on three fronts, Boris Johnson would make a “ridiculous” premier, and Leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom did not really believe in Brexit.

Speaking to former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind while still wearing a live Sky News microphone, Mr Clarke described the situation as a “fiasco”, and said he would probably end up voting for Mrs May, after giving support to Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb in the early stages of the contest.

Mr Clarke tells Sir Malcolm: “Theresa’s a bloody difficult woman, but you and I worked for Margaret Thatcher.”

The senior Tory goes on to say: “I get on all right with her ... and she is good. She’s been at the Home Office far too long, so I only know in detail what her views are on the Home Office. She doesn’t know much about foreign affairs.”

Mr Clarke says of Ms Leadsom: “She’s not one of the mindless, tiny band of lunatics who think we can have a sort of glorious economic future outside the single market.

“So long as she understands that she is not to deliver on some of the extremely stupid things that she’s been saying.”

Both Tory grandees were disparaging about Mr Gove, with Sir Malcolm saying: “I don’t mind who wins as long as Gove comes third... as long as Gove is not in the final two, I don’t mind what happens.”