Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt have emerged as strong contenders to replace Ben Wallace as the defence secretary, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prepares for a potential reshuffle of his top team in September.
Ben Wallace recently announced his plans to resign during the next Cabinet reshuffle and step down as a Member of Parliament at the next general election, creating a vacancy for the important role of defence secretary.
Conservative MPs have been discussing the possibility of Tom Tugendhat, the security minister and former Territorial Army officer, as a potential successor to Ben Wallace.
Tugendhat’s experience serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with his previous role as the chair of the foreign affairs committee and his bid for the Tory leadership, has positioned him as a natural choice for the position.
Another strong candidate for the defence secretary role is Penny Mordaunt, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North. Mordaunt, who has previously held the position of defence secretary, has a background as a Royal Navy reservist.
However, her high-profile challenge against Rishi Sunak for the Conservative Party leadership might impact her chances of securing the position.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, an Army reservist, is also believed to be a favourite among potential candidates for the role.
Other names being considered include Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a minister at the Foreign Office, and Brandon Lewis, the former justice secretary approached about a possible return to the Cabinet.
Ben Wallace is said to support James Heappey, the armed forces minister who serves as his deputy at the Ministry of Defence, as a potential successor. Additionally, John Glen, the chief secretary to the Treasury and a close ally of Rishi Sunak has been linked to the defence secretary position.
This appointment holds significant importance for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, particularly in light of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Ben Wallace, who has been a key figure in the UK’s response to the crisis, has been a trusted ally of Johnson throughout his tenure.
Ben Wallace informed the Prime Minister of his plans to step down from the Cabinet on June 16. He confirmed his intention to stand down as an MP at the next election but ruled out triggering a by-election for the Conservatives to contest.
After spending 24 years in politics, including over seven years as defence secretary, Ben Wallace reflected on his decision to step away from parliamentary life, stating his intention not to seek a new seat. Upcoming boundary changes will affect his constituency, Wyre and Preston North.
Despite his interest in becoming the secretary-general of NATO, Ben Wallace’s bid did not receive the backing of US President Joe Biden.