As the prime minister starts to assemble his team in preparation for a general election that is generally anticipated next year, Rishi Sunak named longtime ally Grant Shapps to be the UK’s defense secretary.
Shapps’s ascension on Thursday came after Ben Wallace, who has held the defense role for four years, announced his intention to depart in June.
Claire Coutinho, who had previously served as a junior minister of education, took over Shapps’ position as Energy Security and Net Zero secretary.
Coutinho is the first politician from the class of 2019 to be appointed to the cabinet. Sunak must call a general election by January 2025 at the latest, and it is widely anticipated that he will do so in the fall of 2024.
The adjustments reveal how Sunak intends to shape his senior staff in advance of that election.
Sunak Puts Ally Shapps in Defense
Shapps, in particular, is regard as one of the greatest communicators for the ruling Conservative Party. Coutinho, a former parliamentary private secretary to Sunak when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, is also a loyalist.
Shapps, while having been in the cabinet for a long time, lacks defense experience and fills Wallace’s position at a crucial time for UK policy due to Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
As Shapps adjusts to his new role, “there is a risk that obviously the debate on money for defense stagnates,” former chief of the general staff Richard Dannatt told Sky News on Thursday.
“There is a compelling argument for increasing our existing level of defense spending. Ben Wallace was aware of it. Ben Wallace was supporting it. Will that conversation still carry on?
Wallace was appoint defense secretary in 2019 when Boris Johnson became prime minister. He kept his position under two succeeding premiers.
Liz Truss and Sunak, and he was instrumental in determining how the UK would react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He asked Sunak to keep investing more money in defense and forewarned of rising unrest in the ensuing ten years.
Wallace wrote in his resignation letter, which Sunak’s office distributed.
“We must not go back to the days when defense was consider a discretionary expenditure by the government and savings were made by hollowing out.” He expressed gratitude to the premier for raising defense funding.
Sunak, on the other hand, stated in his response that Britain will change its baseline pledge of spending 2% of GDP on defense to a new “aspiration” of 2.5%.
Shapps has held the positions of home secretary, business secretary, transport secretary, and chairman of the Conservative Party.
This is his sixth cabinet position. Shapps, an MP since 2005, was a crucial element of Sunak’s leadership campaign and is consider one of the party’s top media performers.
He frequently appears on morning televised interview rounds to support the positions of the administration.
Sunak Puts Ally Shapps in Defense
He has most recently been in charge of the government’s efforts to increase Britain’s energy security. He highlighted the connections between energy and defense during his visit to Ukraine this month.
State-educated Shapps graduated from Manchester Polytechnic with a business diploma. Before embarking on a series of marketing endeavors that sparked problems.
Early in his ministerial career in the 2010s when it became clear he had used a pseudonym, he first worked as a photocopier sales representative.
Another staunch supporter of Sunak, 38-year-old Coutinho worked as a chief whip’s assistant before joining the legislature and later as Sunak’s chief secretary to the Treasury.
She was a star of the 2019 class and rejoined Sunak as his legislative assistant when he was chancellor. Coutinho attended Oxford University.
While working at Merrill Lynch and KPMG in the past. She was succeed as a junior education minister by David Johnston.