Ben Wallace: Former favourite for PM whose global ambitions were thwarted

The outgoing defence secretary had made no secret of his desire to become Nato secretary general, but found a series of obstacles in his way, writes world affairs editor Kim Sengupta

Sunday 16 July 2023 19:49 BST
<p>Defence secretary Ben Wallace is leaving government in the autumn </p>

Defence secretary Ben Wallace is leaving government in the autumn

When Liz Truss departed No 10 following her calamitous and extraordinary 49 days in Downing Street, Ben Wallace was the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed her after his stock and profile had risen over his handling of the Ukraine war.

The defence secretary was going to be the “unity candidate” for party members following unrelenting Tory turmoil. In the event, to widespread surprise, Wallace refused to run. “I feel that I can add the best value in keeping people safe at defence. It’s the job I intend to stay doing, so I’m not going to be standing for prime minister this time,” he said as he sought to explain his decision.

Those close to Wallace stressed that he genuinely enjoyed being in the field of military and geostrategic planning. He made no secret that his dream job was to be the next Nato secretary general. And his early and robust support for Ukraine, it was thought, would put him in a good position, as Europe scrambled to be combat-ready in the face of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

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