'The ship is sinking': PM 'reshuffling the deckchairs' with Shapps promotion, says Labour

Energy Secretary Grant Shapps has now been appointed Defence Secretary in what is his fifth Cabinet job in less than a year, ITV News' Political Correspondent Shehab Khan reports

Grant Shapps has been made defence secretary in a Cabinet reshuffle which has raised eyebrows, with a former army chief questioning his credentials and Labour saying Rishi Sunak is just "moving the deckchairs" on a "sinking ship".

The PM appointed Mr Shapps to his fifth Cabinet position in 12 months following the resignation of Ben Wallace, giving Claire Coutinho the vacant role of energy security secretary.

But Labour shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said "it really doesn't matter how many new jobs Rishi Sunak gives to his friends, it's still just moving the deckchairs - they're still a sinking ship".

She added: "They don't have any new ideas. There are so many challenges for our country and we need to have a big change in this country. What we need is a Labour government."

Mr Wallace, who announced he was resigning weeks ago, made his exit official with a letter to the prime minister, urging him not to row back on commitments for defence spending.

Mr Shapps is one of the more widely-known members of the Cabinet, becoming known as transport secretary during the pandemic before being appointed Liz Truss's home secretary for less than a week in the dying days of her premiership.

He said he was "honoured" by the appointment and is "looking forward" to continuing the UK's support of Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Questions have been raised over Mr Shapps' lack of foreign policy and defence experience, with former chief of the general staff of the British Army Lord Dannatt telling Sky News he knows "very little about defence" and it will take him "quite some time to get up to speed".

And the Liberal Democrats defence spokesperson Richard Foord said: "The Conservative Government merry-go-round has to stop.

"They have taken the armed forces for granted for too long, and we are all left less safe as a result."

A reshuffle has long been expected both from the prime minister and Labour, with all political parties gearing up for a general election next year.

It is not yet clear whether Mr Sunak will make any further appointments.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman had previously been considered a potential reshuffle casualty but it is thought her role in helping the PM cut illegal immigration could mean her job is safe.

Mr Sunak praised Mr Wallace, telling him he leaves office after four years in the job with the prime minister's "thanks and respect".

Mr Wallace, who has already confirmed he will not stand as an MP at the next election, was highly respected as Ministry of Defence leader and had hoped to takeover as Nato secretary general before reports suggested US President Joe Biden had blocked the appointment.

The MP for Wyre and Preston North, who served under three prime ministers in the position, played a key role in the UK's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and was a close ally of Boris Johnson.

The ex-PM 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 Wallace during his tenure had made little secret of his desire to boost the defence forces budget and in his final letter as defence secretary he repeated his case for investment.

"I genuinely believe that over the next decade the world will get more insecure and more unstable.

"We both share the belief that now is the time to invest," he told the prime minister.

Mr Sunak told his party colleague that he had been a "vigorous advocate for the defence of the realm".

"The dedication and skill with which you have discharged your responsibilities as Secretary of State for Defence has been typical of your belief in public service and deep commitment to the armed forces and security of the UK.

"You leave the Ministry of Defence and the Armed forces well placed to face the future."

Seen as popular among Tory members, Mr Wallace was at one time seen as a potential leadership contender.

He ruled himself out of the running for the Conservative leadership last year despite being an early frontrunner in the race to replace Mr Johnson.

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