LONDON: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has backed Liz Truss for Conservative leader and prime minister. Writing in The Times, he said Ms Truss was “authentic” and had the experience to address the country’s challenges.
Mr Wallace was himself seen as a contender, but ruled himself out early on in the contest.
Ms Truss’s leadership rival Rishi Sunak said he was “winning round” Conservative Party members ahead of ballots going out next week.
“I’m fighting hard for every vote,” he told the BBC.
In his article, Mr Wallace, who is popular among Tory members, said he had sat with Ms Truss, the foreign secretary, in “cabinet, bilateral meetings and international summits” and that she might not be a “slick salesperson”, but she “stands her ground” and “is straight and means what she says”.
The defence secretary told BBC Breakfast Ms Truss’s commitment to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030 was one of the reasons for his endorsement.
In his article, he listed major issues facing the UK, including the economic aftermath of the Covid pandemic, global inflation, and the threat posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: “[Ms Truss] is the only candidate who has both the breadth and depth of experience needed to confront these challenges.”
He added that former chancellor Mr Sunak would make a “fine member of anyone’s cabinet” and “could do the job of prime minister”, but criticised his decision to resign from Boris Johnson’s government earlier this month. He argued that cabinet ministers had an “obligation” to stay in post and that quitting was “the wrong way to go about it”.
Speaking in her constituency of South West Norfolk, Ms Truss praised Mr Wallace as a “fantastic” defence secretary.
Asked about his comments on Mr Sunak’s resignation, she replied: “I can’t speak for other people, but I felt it was important for me to be loyal to Boris Johnson and also to continue as foreign secretary when we are in the worst war on European shores in a generation.”
Mr Sunak left the government on 5 July, citing concerns over Mr Johnson’s conduct and differences of opinion on the economy.
According to a BBC report, Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak has said he would back the return of grammar schools, during a hustings with rival Liz Truss.
Asked by host Nick Ferrari whether he supported their return, the former chancellor said: “Yes.”
But he added “there’s lots we can do with the school system as we have it”.
It’s unlawful to open new grammars in England – state schools which select on ability – but existing ones can expand, and around 176,000 pupils attend one.
After the debate, Mr Sunak’s team said he would expand existing grammar schools in “wholly selective areas”, and will maintain commitments under the Selective School Expansion Fund.
That scheme funds the expansion of certain state schools which select by ability, subject to certain conditions.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has backed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the contest, calling her “authentic, honest and experienced”.
Grammar schools began to be replaced by comprehensive schools – which don’t select by ability – in the 1960s.
Under law no new grammar schools can be opened, and no new schools can select pupils by their grades.
But more children have attended grammar schools in recent years, with existing schools still allowed to expand to accommodate more pupils.
After saying he supported Mr Sunak the return of grammar schools, Mr Sunak said: “I believe in educational excellence, I believe education is the most powerful way we can transform people’s lives.
“But I also think there’s lots we can do with the school system as we have it.”
“Now what Michael Gove did several years ago [by expanding free schools and academies] was transformative.
“And Michael took on some vested interests, challenged consensus, brought in some reforms that mean that millions of our children now are better off.
“But that’s a Conservative way to do it. It’s not about throwing more money at the problem, it’s about reforming the system to get better outcomes. And that’s what I would do with education as well.”