Grant Shapps announced as new UK defense secretary to replace Ben Wallace

Grant Shapps has been moved from his current role as energy secretary to take on the defense brief.

The appointment was made to replace Ben Wallace, who stepped down as the U.K.’s defense minister Thursday after four years in the role.

Shapps, who has held several senior Cabinet posts during his career, is a long-time ally of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and will take over responsibility for guiding the U.K.’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to appoint Shapps will lead to a significant shake-up at the top of government, with a new energy secretary expected to be appointed later today.

In his resignation letter Thursday, Wallace, who is also standing down at an MP at the next election, said the Ministry of Defence was a “more modern, better funded and more confident than the organization I took over in 2019”.

But he implored the Prime Minister and his successor to push for additional funding for the military.

“I know you agree with me that we must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out,” he wrote.

In a message on social media, Shapps said: “I am looking forward to working with the brave men and women of our armed forces who defend our nation’s security. And continuing the U.K’s support for Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s barbaric invasion.”

Wallace tweeted: “That’s all folks. Been a privilege to serve this great nation.”

Shapps made his first official visit to Ukraine last week as part of his energy role, where he announced details of a £192 million loan to Ukraine’s national nuclear energy company as part of an effort to end the country’s reliance on Russia.

The-then energy secretary met with senior Ukrainian ministers and visited a nursery which was attended by Nikita, the son of a refugee family he took in under the U.K.’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

His appointment came as something of a surprise in Westminster, given Shapps’ relative lack of experience in foreign affairs briefs. But the incoming defense secretary is trusted by No. 10 as a skilled media performer and loyalist who has held a number of senior Cabinet roles dating back to David Cameron’s governments of 2010 to 2016.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a message on social media: “Sad to see departure of my friend Ben Wallace. A fine Defence Secretary who got so many calls right – especially on Ukraine. Grant Shapps is an excellent choice to succeed him.”