Former Tory Cabinet minister Ken Clarke has been caught on camera ridiculing the candidates for the Conservative leadership contest.
Mr Clarke was filmed having a conversation in front of a camera in the Sky News studio, apparently unaware he was being recorded.
He told former colleague Sir Malcolm Rifkind that Theresa May was a “bloody difficult woman”, that Michael Gove was so right-wing he would likely start wars with “at least three countries” and that he did not really think Andrea Leadsom wanted to leave the EU.
Mr Clarke said Mr Gove had views so extreme that he had even caused neoconservative Liam Fox to “raise eyebrows” when exposed to them.
“I remember being in a discussion once about something we should do about Syria or Iraq and [what Michael Gove said] was so wild I remember exchanging looks with Liam Fox – who’s much more right wing than me,” he said.
“Even Liam was raising eyebrows. I think with Michael as Prime Minister we’d go to war with at least three countries at once.”
He however added: “He did us all a favour by getting rid of Boris.” Sir Malcolm, the former MP for Kensington who was party to the conversation, said that he would like anyone except Mr Gove to win the contest.
The former Chancellor said he would likely ultimately vote for frontrunner Theresa May after lending a vote to Stephen Crabb to encourage him. Of the frontrunner, he said:
“Theresa’s a bloody difficult woman but you and I worked for Margaret Thatcher. She’s alright, I get on alright with her, and she’s good. She’s too narrow on her department.
“The thing I don’t know is she’s been at the Home Office for far too long, so I only know on detail what her views are on the Home Office. She doesn’t know much about foreign affairs.”
Mr Clarke said he was not concerned by Ms Leadsom, arguing that she had only backed leaving the EU to give her a better chance in the Tory leadership contest.
He said she would however have to backtrack on some of the “extremely stupid” things she had been saying during the campaign.
“I don’t think Andrea Leadsom of Boris Johnson are actually in favour of leaving the European Union,” he said.
“It was the obvious thing that the voters, ie Conservative party members, were going to vote Leave. I don’t know her very well – it was only three years ago, she’s had a Pauline conversion.
“She does have experience in the City and Bank of England and she’s not one of the tiny band of lunatics who think we can have a glorious economic future outside the single market. So long as she understands that she’s not to deliver on some of the extremely stupid things she’s been saying.”
Asked for his reaction to the video Sir Malcolm told The Independent: “hugely amused – it all adds in some human happiness.
“And I’m delighted to have made my own personal contribution,” he added, laughing.
“I watched it obviously…you can hardly make out what I’m saying unless you read the transcript. Of course the camera was on Ken, not me.”
Asked about his comments on Tory hopeful Michael Gove, he replied: “I made some words to that effect. I’m not sure I can embellish it. What I said speaks for itself and it’s probably shared by a far greater proportion of mankind. It’s good entertaining stuff.
“People may say it’s a bit naughty of them [Sky News] but I think under the circumstances it is the world we live in – I make no complaint at all.”
The leaked recording comes in a long line of politicians being recorded saying things around microphones they did not realise were switched on.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was famously recorded calling a voter “bigoted woman” to his aides after she suggested that her relatives should be given priority over immigrants for services. He subsequently apologised for the statement.
The Conservative leadership contest is now underway, with a winner set to be picked by early September and installed ahead of the party’s annual conference in Birmingham.
A spokesperson for Sky News said: “Ken Clarke had just finished a live TV interview and was still sitting in front of a live camera and microphone when he discussed the Conservative Party leadership contest with Sir Malcolm Rifkind.
“Their conversation revealed important insights about those vying not just to be Conservative Party leader, but also Prime Minister. We believe that there is a strong public interest in their views being known.”
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