"I don't mind who wins as long as Gove comes third" - Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Ken Clarke caught on microphone criticising Conservative leadership candidates

Caitlin Morrison
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The Conservative Party Hold Their Annual Party Conference - Day 3
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Former cabinet minister Ken Clarke has been caught on microphone at Sky News' Westminster studio giving his unguarded opinion of the Tory leadership candidates.

Conservative MPs are today voting in the first stage of the contest, with Michael Gove, Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Stephen Crabb and Liam Fox all battling it out to remain in the running.

Clarke was recorded sharing his opinions on the "fiasco" with Sir Malcolm Rifkind - Rifkind kicked things off by admitting: "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."

Clarke seemed to agree on Gove: "I don't think the membership will vote for Gove. I remember being in a discussion about something to do with somewhere like Syria or Iraq and he was so wild that I remember exchanging looks with Liam Fox. We were exchanging views and Liam was raising his eyebrows.

"I think with Michael as Prime Minister we'd go to war with at least three countries at once."

Gove's surprise announcement that he would run for leader of the party has been seen as the key catalyst behind Boris Johnson's decision not to stand - and Clarke stated: "He did us all a favour by getting rid of Boris. The idea of Boris as Prime Minister is ridiculous."

He added: "I don't think either Andrea Leadsom or Boris Johnson actually are in favour of leaving the European Union."

Rifkind then replied that he didn't "think they even cared very much either way".

On Leadsom, Clarke commented: "She is not one of the 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's not to deliver on some of the extremely stupid things she's been saying."

Meanwhile, when speaking of the frontrunner for the leadership, Clarke quipped: "Theresa is a bloody difficult woman but you and I worked with Margaret Thatcher."

He continued: "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."