Tory leadership contest ‘a shambles and in danger of becoming tragic farce’

The Conservative leadership contest is "a shambles" and the party has "never seen such a crisis", according to Tory former minister Ken Clarke.

Mr Clarke, MP for Rushcliffe, said he fears the Conservative Party is "tearing itself apart" and that both the Tories and Labour are facing a "very dangerous moment".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Clarke said he thinks there are too many candidates running to be the next prime minister.

He said: "It is all a shambles and is in danger of becoming a rather tragic farce unless some order is brought into it. There is nothing I can do about that; the 1922 Committee perhaps should have tightened up the rules before we started."

He went on to say that International Development Secretary Rory Stewart "has a chance" of succeeding Theresa May as the next prime minister and "shake up the present establishment of the party".

He said some of the other candidates had spent more time "getting rid of Theresa May in a rather brutal fashion than they have in concentrating on policy".

Mr Clarke said the idea that Parliament would be unable to stop a push to leave the EU without a deal would be a "constitutional outrage".

He said: "I think the British constitution is stronger than that. A no-deal Brexit is attractive to a lot of people, including a lot of Conservative members, by the sound of it because it sounds like 'Oh, let's cut through all this nonsense, I'm tired of it. Three years of nonsense. Just let's leave', and the assumption is not much would change.

"But leaving means WTO rules – that means tariffs of 20% on our steel exports through Europe, 10% on our cars, and much higher figures on our agricultural exports, it means no agreement on the licensing of medicines, security, policing. It is a dangerous shambles, this no-deal thing.

Mr Clarke added: "I think the party is in a very dangerous moment. Both parties are, I'm willing to say the same with the Labour Party.

"I have never seen the Conservative Party in such a crisis. I do think it is tearing itself apart. It is polarising into simplistic positions."