In an unexpected move, former energy minister Grant Shapps has taken over the role of Britain’s defence minister, replacing Ben Wallace.
This decision, while demonstrating London’s continued support for Ukraine, has sparked concerns due to Shapps’ limited military experience.
This shift is seen as an effort to fortify Shapps’ team ahead of an anticipated national election next year and following Wallace’s resignation.
Shapps’ adeptness in media communication is likely to be harnessed by Chancellor Sunak in endeavors to reverse the opposition Labour Party’s lead in opinion polls.
Upon his appointment, Shapps conveyed his anticipation to collaborate with the courageous individuals of the Armed Forces who safeguard the nation’s security.
He underscored the UK’s commitment to backing Ukraine in its resistance against Putin’s aggressive incursion.
Britain, a significant supplier of defense equipment to Ukraine, is striving to enhance its weaponry production, particularly artillery shells.
This move aims to aid Kyiv in repelling Russian forces and replenishing its own military resources.
However, Moscow has criticized Britain’s involvement, alleging it exacerbates the conflict.
The choice of Shapps as defence minister has raised eyebrows among Conservative Party members, some of whom have questioned his lack of military expertise.
Regarded as a reliable and meticulous figure, Shapps, aged 54, recently visited Kyiv, where he announced export finance guarantees.
During the visit, he also revisited a kindergarten that the family he hosted had attended after fleeing the invasion.
Shapps, who has ancestral ties to Jewish communities displaced from Latvia, Poland, and Russia, expressed deep reflection upon learning about his Ukrainian guests’ experiences.
This new role marks Shapps’ fifth position within a year, following his tenure as transport, interior affairs, business, and energy and net zero minister.
His replacement in the latter role by former children’s minister Claire Coutinho coincided with his appointment as defence minister.
Shapps’ humor was evident last month when he quipped about being the face of the government’s ‘crisis communications’, recounting a junior official’s remark about the challenging nature of his role during the COVID-19 restrictions breach incident.
Wallace, the outgoing defence minister and a former British army captain, conveyed his resignation to Sunak in a letter.
While pledging his ongoing support to the government, he cautioned against viewing defence expenditure as discretionary.
Wallace, who played a pivotal role in the UK’s response to Russia’s Ukraine invasion, expressed his desire to step down after four years in the position to explore opportunities outside of parliament.
He emphasized that Ukraine should demonstrate appreciation to its allies and cultivate a partnership rather than transactional ties with them.
Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov acknowledged Wallace’s dedication and authority, praising his influence in encouraging other nations to support Ukraine.
Sunak echoed the sentiment, commending Wallace’s service during his eight-year tenure as a minister.