Sky News defends 'naughty' decision to broadcast candid Clarke and Rifkind off-air Tory leadership race comments

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Sky News has defended broadcasting off-air candid comments made by Tory politicians Kenneth Clarke and Sir Malcolm Rifkind about the party’s leadership race.

Rifkind and Clarke appeared to be having a private conversation, with the former muffling his voice.

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, Boris Johnson would make a “ridiculous” prime minister, and Leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom did not really believe in Brexit.

Rifkind said: “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.”

A Sky News spokesperson 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.”

Sir Malcolm told the Press Association: “My comments speak for themselves, and they appear to be shared by quite a high proportion of the human race.”

The former Cabinet minister said it was “naughty” of Sky News to play the exchange with Clarke, but he did not have a problem with the broadcaster.

Sky news presenter Kay Burley said that no “surreptitious” recording had been involved in obtaining the exchange.

“This was a live microphone. There was no surreptitious recording going on. They had both been interviewed and Mr Clarke continued to … sit in front of the microphone,” she told viewers.

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