The Defence Secretary explained the reasons behind his support for Liz Truss, whilst taking thinly-veiled swipes at Mr Sunak’s record as chancellor.
29 July 2022
Ben Wallace has accused Rishi Sunak of trying to block “vital” defence money during his time as chancellor.
In a series of interviews this morning, the Defence Secretary explained the reasons behind his support for Liz Truss, whilst taking thinly-veiled swipes at Mr Sunak’s record in the Treasury.
Mr Wallace told Sky News the Foreign Secretary recognises that “the threats we face every day” need to be “funded properly”, pointing to Ms Truss’ commitment to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030.
He also said that without any prompting or asking, Ms Truss wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying that defence needs more money.
In stark contrast, Mr Sunak, the Defence Secretary said, tried to block “vital” defence money in 2019, only to find himself over-ruled by the Prime Minister.
He was asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari how obstructive the former chancellor was in granting more cash to the armed forces.
Mr Wallace replied: “I don’t think he was obstructive…”
When pressed further, the Defence Secretary said: “I mean, the multi-year settlement that we got was not what the Treasury had wanted.
“They wanted a one-year settlement. This was back in 2019, I think. And it was vital that we got a multi-year settlement.
“And the Prime Minister effectively asserted his authority and made sure that’s what happened.”
Mr Ferrari asked: “But Mr Sunak was not in support?”
Mr Wallace said: “Not that I remember.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the Defence Secretary insisted Mr Sunak would be a “fine member of anybody’s Cabinet”, but added: “For me, Liz is the one that I think will do best by defence of this nation, by investing in it.”
He went on: “When I was in Government, without any prompting or asking, Liz, I remember, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying that defence needs more money, it’s a more dangerous, risky world.
“She did that off her own back. She’s been very consistent.”
The Defence Secretary, who would have not liked the Prime Minister to resign, was also critical of the way the former chancellor resigned, telling Sky News: “I just don’t think triggering Cabinet ministers walking out at a time of a crisis is the right course of action.
“There were other mechanisms to do what they wanted. If Rishi Sunak didn’t want the Prime Minister to be Prime Minister, there are other mechanisms to do that. And that goes for all the other ministers.”
Mr Wallace’s endorsement is seen as a major and further boost for the Foreign Secretary, who has come out ahead in polls and surveys of Tory party members.
Speaking to The Sun on Wednesday, Mr Wallace described the Foreign Secretary as “authentic, honest and experienced” with the “integrity” for the top job.
He also wrote in The Times that Ms Truss was “a winner not because she’s a slick salesperson, but because she is authentic”.
The Cabinet heavyweight’s backing came after the two Tory leadership hopefuls were quizzed separately on a vast array of policy areas – as well as their predictions for the Women’s Euro 2022 final.
The event, hosted by LBC’s Nick Ferrari, was the first of 12 sessions for the party faithful across the country to question the final two contenders, before voting for the next Tory leader and prime minister closes on September 2.
While they did not address one another directly, tax continued to be a significant dividing line between the pair.
Mr Sunak said he would not “embark on a spree, borrowing tens and tens of billions of pounds of unfunded promises and put them on the country’s credit card”.
Meanwhile, Ms Truss criticised windfall taxes – something Mr Sunak imposed as a one-off on energy companies as chancellor.
She said: “I don’t believe in windfall taxes, because they put off future investment.
“What we should be doing is encouraging Shell and other companies to invest in the United Kingdom, because we need to get our productivity up, we need capital investment.”
The former chancellor acknowledged he was trailing Ms Truss in the polls, but vowed to fight for every vote.
He said: “We are going to have to appeal to swing voters in every part of our country. And I believe with all my heart that I am the person, I am the candidate, that gives our party the best opportunity to secure that victory.”
He later denied that his pledge to cut VAT on energy bills was a U-turn, saying “it’s reasonable that there is more than we can do”.
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