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25 July 2019updated 09 Jun 2022 3:37pm

Cabinet audit: What does Ben Wallace at Defence mean for policy?

By Patrick Maguire

Few of Boris Johnson’s close circle of personal allies were rewarded with full Cabinet posts. Ben Wallace, who has been promoted from Security Minister to Defence Secretary, is an exception – though only got the nod as a result of Jeremy Hunt turning it down.

The most immediate political challenge Wallace, a former Scots Guard who saw active service in Northern Ireland, will face is in the Gulf, where Johnson’s administration has a huge strategic call to make about its strategy on Iran: to Trump, or not to Trump?

At Westminster, the prosecution of veterans over historical allegations of battle crimes – an issue that animates Conservative backbenchers almost as much as Brexit. Johnson has pledged to end what many Conservative MPs consider to be unfair prosecutions – particularly of those who, like Wallace, served in Northern Ireland.

That, as weary Northern Ireland Office mandarins point out to those MPs demanding an amnesty, statute of limitations or something similar. As a veteran, Wallace is by nature on board with their cause – and Johnson has promised a beefed-up Veterans Minister post too. He could well become embroiled in a Whitehall scrap.

Spending will be another source of tension: while Johnson has promised the increase a certain kind of Conservative demands ad infinitum it is not a given that the Treasury – or indeed the economy – will provide it.

Hear from the UK’s leading politicians on the most pressing policy questions facing the UK at NS Politics Live, in London. Speakers include Sir Keir Starmer, Ben Wallace, Lisa Nandy, Sajid Javid, Professor Sarah Gilbert, Jeremy Hunt, Layla Moran and Andrew Marr. Find out more about the New Statesman’s flagship event on the 28 June here.

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