Ben Wallace to step down as UK defense chief: Sunday Times – POLITICO

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace plans to leave the government at the next Cabinet reshuffle and will not stand in the next general election, he told the Sunday Times newspaper.

Wallace informed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of his plans on June 16 but had hoped to make the announcement later in the summer, the newspaper reported late Saturday. A cabinet reshuffle is expected by September.

“I’m not standing next time,” Wallace was quoted as saying. But he ruled out going “prematurely” and forcing another by-election, the newspaper said.

“I went into politics in the Scottish parliament in 1999. That’s 24 years,” Wallace, who has been defense chief since July 2019, told the paper.

The development comes days after Wallace controversially said Ukraine should put more emphasis on showing “gratitude” to “doubting politicians” in the US and allied other countries who might not be completely convinced of the need to maintain military and economic support to Kyiv as it defends the country from Russia’s invasion.

“There’s a slight word of caution here which is, whether you like it or not people want to see gratitude,” Wallace told reporters at a NATO summit in Lithuania on July 12.

Sunak was forced to try to calm the diplomatic tumor caused by Wallace’s remarks. The prime minister said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed gratitude to Kyiv’s allies “countless times.”

Wallace took to social media late Saturday to try to clarify his comments, saying they had been “somewhat misrepresented.”

“I said that Ukraine sometimes needs to realize that in many countries and in some parliaments there is not such strong support as in Great Britain,” Wallace said in a tweet. “It was a comment not about governments, but more about citizens and members of parliament.”

Wallace’s name was in the mix of potential candidates to be the next secretary-general of NATO before the defense alliance in early July agreed to extend Jens Stoltenberg’s term by a year.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo