What Tory grandees Ken Clarke and Malcolm Rifkind really think about the leadership race

Unaware the cameras were rolling, the veteran Tories shared candid views.

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Michael Gove is "wild", Theresa May is "bloody difficult" and Andrea Leadsom doesn't actually care about leaving the European Union.

That's the candid view of Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke, as caught on Sky News in a conversation with a mostly off-camera Malcolm Rifkind, a former Tory MP.

The two men do not seem to have realised the camers were still rolling. Sky News has been criticised for publishing the footage, but presenter Kay Burley responded: "You're never alone with a microphone."

In the footage, Rifkind tells Clarke: "I don't mind who wins as long as Gove comes third."

Clarke agrees that Gove's chances are poor: "I don't think the membership will vote for Gove."

He then relates how Gove's "wild" foreign policy even shocked defence hawk and rival leadership challenger Liam Fox.

Clarke says: "I think with Michael as PM we'd go to war with three countries at once."

The conversation then moves onto Boris Johnson, who was widely tipped to be the favourite to succeed David Cameron before he dramatically shutting down his own campaign launch.

Clarke dismissed the idea of a PM Johnson as "ridiculous".

Both men agreed that neither Johnson, or Andrea Leadsom, another leadership contender, did not really care about the European Union, but saw that party members would wish to leave.

Clarke praised Leadsom as not being one of "the mindless tiny band of lunatics who think we can have a sort of glorious economic future outside of the single market". 

But he warned she would need to realise she couldn't deliver "on some of the extremely stupid things she's been saying". 

The two men finally consider current favourite, Theresa May.

Clarke concludes: "Theresa's a bloody difficult woman, but you and I worked for Margaret Thatcher."

Depending on your point of view, he could be paying her a compliment. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.