UK PM race: Defense secy Ben Wallace opts out, says ‘would lean towards Johnson’


British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Friday he would not enter the competition to replace Liz Truss as prime minister and was leaning towards support for former leader Boris Johnson.

After Truss resigned on Thursday and ended her six weeks in power, those who want to replace her are trying to find the 100 votes of conservative lawmakers needed to participate in a contest the party hopes will restore its ailing fortune.

“I feel like the best value I can add to keeping people safe in defense is by being the Secretary of Defense,” Wallace told reporters. “It’s the job I plan to keep doing, so I’m not going to be prime minister this time.”

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Wallace is one of the few ministers to emerge from the recent political turmoil with greater credibility, he is popular with party members and was one of the bookmakers’ favourites.

As a former soldier, he led the British response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Truss’ predecessor Boris Johnson and his former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak are the leading potential contenders, although neither have formally announced their candidacy yet.

When asked who he would support, he said, “Right now I would lean towards Boris Johnson.”

Johnson was impeached by lawmakers just over three months ago after a three-year tenure ravaged by scandals and allegations of misconduct.

Wallace said key points in deciding his support would be a commitment to national and economic security, a recognition of the mandate the party won in a 2019 national election led by Johnson, and its ability to unite the party. .

“This may be our third prime minister since the general election … that means we need to think about the legitimacy question that the public will ask themselves, as well as who could win the next election,” he said.

Asked about Sunak, he said he would like to hear what he had to say about defense and security investment commitments.

Wallace also appeared to acknowledge an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into whether Johnson misled lawmakers about breaches of the COVID-19 lockdown in Downing Street.

“I think he will have some questions to answer about … that investigation.”



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