UK defence minister resigns as Sunak begins recalibrating for general election

Incoming UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps.
Incoming UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AFP
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Outgoing Ben Wallace is the only cabinet minister to have served under all three most recent Conservative Party leaders.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has resigned, to be replaced by Grant Shapps, the current Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero.


This is Shapps's fifth cabinet job in less than a year. He has previously served as Secretary for Transport, Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Home Secretary – the last for a mere six days during the implosion of Liz Truss's government last autumn.

Shapps takes the helm as the UK continues to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, including with much-needed military hardware. 

Some are interpreting the change of personnel at the Ministry of Defence as a prelude to a wider reshuffle, one that would allow Sunak to prepare for a general election that must be held by the end of next year.

As things stand, the Conservative Party have an extremely difficult road to retaining power after 13 years in government and four changes of prime minister.

AP Photo
Ben Wallace visits Estonia, January 2023.AP Photo

Wallace had indicated during the summer his intention to retire from political life after nine years in government, including four in the top defence job.

"I was elected as an MP in 2005 and, after so many years, it is time to invest myself in the aspects of life that I have neglected and to explore new opportunities", he wrote in his letter of resignation published by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office.

Wallace has played a key role in Western support for Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022. His name was floated as a possible candidate for the post of NATO Secretary General, but he failed to secure the backing of the United States, and Norway's Jens Stoltenberg was reappointed.

Elected to the British Parliament for 18 years, Ben Wallace is the longest-serving Minister of Defence since Winston Churchill, taking up the post in 2019 after serving as Theresa May's security minister.

He is the only minister with a senior portfolio to have stayed on under all of the last three prime ministers: Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and now Sunak.

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