Saturday 24 February 2018

Clarke caught ridiculing Tory leadership contenders

Former UK chancellor Ken Clarke made his comments on the Tory leadership rivals in a Sky News studio. Photo: Sky News
Former UK chancellor Ken Clarke made his comments on the Tory leadership rivals in a Sky News studio. Photo: Sky News

Shaun Connolly

Former UK chancellor Ken Clarke has launched blistering assaults on most of the main contenders in the Tory leadership race.

In apparently unguarded remarks broadcast by Sky News, Mr Clarke described home secretary Theresa May as "a bloody difficult woman", said justice secretary Michael Gove would take the country to war on three fronts, said Boris Johnson would make a "ridiculous" prime minister, and that Leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom did not really believe in Brexit.

Speaking to former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind while wearing a live Sky News mic at a Westminster TV studio, Mr Clarke described the situation as a "fiasco", and said he would probably vote for Ms May, after giving support to work and pensions secretary Steve Crabb in the early stages of the contest.

Mr Clarke can be heard telling Mr Rifkind: "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."

The ex-Cabinet minister said 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 are disparaging about Mr Gove, with Mr Rifkind saying: "I don't mind who wins as long as Gove comes third."

Mr Clarke replies: "I don't think the membership will vote for Gove. I remember being in a discussion once about something we should do in somewhere like Syria or Iraq, and he was so wild, I remember exchanging looks with Liam Fox... who's much more right-wing than me, and Liam was raising eyebrows. I think with Michael as prime minister we'd go to war with at least three countries at once."

But Mr Clarke did praise Mr Gove for ruining Mr Johnson's leadership bid: "He did us all a favour by getting rid of Boris. The idea of Boris as prime minister is ridiculous," he said.

Mr Clarke also expressed doubts about whether Mr Johnson and fellow Leave campaigner Ms Leadsom believed in Brexit. "I don't think either Andrea Leadsom or Boris Johnson actually are in favour of leaving the European Union. It was the obvious thing that the voters, ie Conservative Party members, were going to vote Leave," he said.

Irish Independent

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