Ben Wallace to resign as defence secretary and step down as MP at next election

Mr Wallace, 53, is a favourite among Tory members and topped the Conservative Home website’s July poll of most popular cabinet minister

Rich Booth
Saturday 15 July 2023 20:05 BST
Zelensky ‘doesn’t understand’ Ben Wallace’s complaints about ‘gratitude’

Ben Wallace has confirmed he plans to resign at the next Cabinet reshuffle and will not seek re-election as an MP after four years as Defence Secretary.

Mr Wallace, who survived three prime ministers as Defence Secretary and played a key role in the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, announced the news on Saturday.

His Wyre and Preston North constituency will disappear at the next election after boundary changes and he said he would not seek a new seat.

He joins more than 40 other Tory MPs to step down at the next election.

Mr Wallace, who was a close ally of Boris Johnson, told The Times: “I’m not standing next time.”

He confirmed he will not leave “prematurely” and force a by-election.

The defence secretary went on to talk of his fears of future wars: “Towards the end of the decade, the world is going to be much more unsafe, more insecure. I think we will find ourselves in a conflict. Whether it is a cold or a warm conflict, I think we’ll be in a difficult position.”

Citing the China situation and “a total breakdown of politics in the Pacific”, he added: “You could find yourself by 2030 in a position of cold war.”

Mr Wallace, 53, is a favourite among Tory members and topped the Conservative Home website’s July poll of most popular cabinet ministers.

He had a net satisfaction approval rating of +77.1, ahead of second-placed foreign secretary James Cleverly, on +54.4, and business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch in third, on +43.9.

He had expressed an interest in standing for the role of Nato secretary-general before it was announced the current chief, Jens Stoltenberg, had been given another year in charge.

Mr Wallace observes Ukrainian troops in training at Lydd
Mr Wallace observes Ukrainian troops in training at Lydd (Getty)

Last week, Rishi Sunak shut down comments from Mr Wallace in which he suggested Ukraine should show “gratitude” for the military support it had been given.

Mr Wallace had made the remark after the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky branded it “absurd” for Nato to insist there were still conditions for his nation to meet before it can gain membership once the war with Russia is over.

Mr Zelensky later said: “I believe that we were always grateful to the United Kingdom.

“I don’t know what he meant and how else we should be grateful.”

Mr Wallace is the longest continuously serving minister in government, having been security minister under Theresa May before being promoted to defence secretary by Mr Johnson and continuing the role under his two successors.

He was previously appointed as a whip in 2014 and a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office in 2015 while David Cameron was prime minister.

The Wyre and Preston North MP ruled himself out of the running for the Conservative leadership last year, despite being an early frontrunner in the race to replace Mr Johnson.

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