The Labour Party lost all its best leadership candidates in the general election, according to cabinet minister Michael Gove.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said the Labour politicians he most "admired" lost their seats in last week's poll.
"So many people who I admire in the Labour Party are no longer MPs. Caroline Flint would be an outstanding leader. [So would] Ian Austin, John Woodcock..." he told talkRADIO's Julia Hartley-Brewer.
"They are all people who would be great leaders and who would be potential heads of government, but they're not available to the Labour Party. That says something about the position the Labour Party finds itself in."
The process to replace current party leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to commence on January 7, with a view to having a new leader in place by the end of March.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the next leader should be a woman, and gave his backing to shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey.
And Labour MP for Aberavon, Stephen Kinnock, said the fact that there had never been a female Labour leader was an "albatross hanging round our necks".
Mr Gove refused to say whether he would feel threatened if Ms Long-Bailey were to be elected as Mr Corbyn's successor, but said he wished her well.
"You have to respect all politicians who put themselves forward for a leadership position, it’s not an easy thing to do."
He continued: "I think that it's a pity the Labour Party has reduced its ranks so that many people who I think - and many Labour voters think - would be good people to be in a leadership role are no longer eligible."
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