Ben Wallace has this morning resigned as defence secretary.
In his letter accepting Mr Wallace’s resignation, the prime minister said: “You have served our country with distinction. Your strategic foresight and clarity has been invaluable to our country and the security of our continent. You saw, before others did, what Vladimir Putin’s true intentions in Ukraine were. Your determination to get Kiev weaponry before the Russians attacked had a material effect on the ability of the Ukrainians to thwart the invasion.”
He added: “I am proud of how this country has led in responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“In the most difficult of situations, you have displayed exceptional judgement. You were instrumental in the evacuation of over 15,000 people from Afghanistan during Operation Pitting. Your anticipation and leadership of one of the largest evacuations of modern times was central to its success.
“You have played an absolutely vital role in rallying support for Ukraine at home and abroad”.
The letter ends: “I fully understand your desire to step down after eight years of exacting ministerial duties. As you say, the jobs you have done have required you to be available on a continuous basis. But I know you have more to offer public life both here and internationally. You leave office with my thanks and respect.”
In his own resignation letter, Mr Wallace noted it was his “fourth year as Secretary of State for Defence. It also marks the ninth year as a Minister”
He added: “As I finish my tenure, I can reflect that the Ministry of Defence that I leave is now more modern, better funded and more confident than the organisation I took over in 2019”.
“The Ministry of Defence is back on the path to being once again world class with world class people”
Grant Shapps, who is energy security secretary, is thought to be the frontrunner to replace Mr Wallace.
Other names that have been floated include: John Glen, chief secretary to the Treasury, Tom Tugendhat, who is the security minister, and Liam Fox, who has held a number of cabinet roles.
If a current cabinet minister is made defence secretary, the prime minister would have to replace them as well, meaning there could be a slightly broader shuffling of the decks.
Mr Wallace initially announced in July his intention to stand down.
He told The Times: “I went into politics in the Scottish parliament in 1999. That’s 24 years. I’ve spent well over seven years with three phones by my bed.”
The announcement followed a controversy when the defence secretary told a NATO summit press conference that the UK was not an “Amazon” delivery service for weapons to Ukraine.
It also followed a failed UK bid to make Mr Wallace the next head of NATO.
Mr Wallace was once tipped as a potential candidate for Conservative leader and prime minister. But he ruled himself out of the race to replace Boris Johnson last summer and instead backed eventual winner Liz Truss.
Asked what he would do next by The Times, he said: “I’m quite happy to go and work at a bar,” or “just do something completely different.”