19 May 2023

Sunak talks up Ben Wallace after Defence Secretary says Nato top job ‘fantastic’

19 May 2023

Rishi Sunak has talked up Ben Wallace as “widely respected” by international allies as the Defence Secretary confirmed his interest in becoming the next secretary general of Nato.

Speaking ahead of the G7 summit in Japan on Thursday, the Prime Minister said Mr Wallace is focused on his current role supporting Ukraine “right now”.

Mr Wallace confirmed his interest in succeeding Jens Stoltenberg at the top of Nato when his term expires in September, saying the job would be “fantastic”.

The Prime Minister did not say whether he would support Mr Wallace’s bid for the role, during an interview with ITV News Seifukan tea house in Hiroshima.

But Mr Sunak said: “I know he’s widely respected by his peers for the role that he has played.

“He’s focused right now on supporting Ukraine. He’s doing a great job of that.”

Mr Wallace indicated his eagerness over the role during a trip to Berlin for talks on Ukraine with his German counterpart Boris Pistorius.

It's not for me to decide. It's for all the other allies

Mr Wallace told German dpa news agency: “I’ve always said it would be a good job. That’s a job I’d like.

“But I’m also loving the job I do now. I mean, to be Defence Secretary of the British Government at a time of reform and investment, just like Boris Pistorius (Germany’s minister of defence).”

He added that secretary general of the transatlantic alliance “is a fantastic job and Nato is an incredibly important part of all our securities”.

“But it’s not for me to decide. It’s for all the other allies,” he added.

The race for the top job has been heating up, with Mr Stoltenberg indicating he will not seek a further extension after nearly a decade in the role.

Nato member states typically decide on the alliance’s next chief behind the scenes.

Mr Wallace would have to overcome the opposition of those said to be pushing for a woman or someone from eastern Europe.

France would reportedly prefer an EU candidate.

If the Defence Secretary did succeed, it could trigger a by-election in his Wyre and Preston North seat.

It is set to be carved up under a planned shake-up of Westminster constituencies later this year.

The appointment of Labour MP George Robertson as Nato chief in 1999 led to a by-election in his Hamilton South constituency, south west of Glasgow.

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