Net Zero secretary Grant Shapps was appointed Defence Secretary on Thursday to succeed Ben Wallace as Rishi Sunak asked the former salesman to oversee the UK's support for Ukraine and an overhaul of the military.
Mr Wallace announced last month he would resign from the senior cabinet role at the next reshuffle, after four years in the job. Mr Shapps established his credentials with a trip to Ukraine earlier this month to announce support for its nuclear energy ministry.
It is Mr Shapps' fifth cabinet job in the past 12 months and the announcement follows weeks of speculation over Mr Wallace's replacement.
“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,” Mr Wallace wrote in a resignation letter. “We must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out.”
Politicians with military links, such as Armed Forces Minister James Heappey and Chief Secretary to the Treasury John Glen, had been tipped for the role.
Mr Wallace, who served as defence secretary under three prime ministers, played a key role in the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and was a close ally of Boris Johnson.
Popular among Tory members, he was at one time seen as a potential leadership contender.
He ruled himself out of the race last year, despite being an early front-runner.
His successor will take on the high-profile role as the war in Ukraine continues. The UK military has set out a plan to reduce personnel numbers and modernise its forces to address new challenges such as drone warfare.
Mr Johnson paid tribute to Mr Wallace while praising Mr Shapps as his replacement.
He tweeted: “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.”
Mr Shapps said he was “honoured to be appointed as Defence Secretary by Rishi Sunak”.
“I’d like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution Ben Wallace has made to UK defence and global security over the last four years,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.