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Grant Shapps has been appointed UK defence secretary, moving to his fifth cabinet job in a year following the resignation of Ben Wallace.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak promoted Shapps to run the Ministry of Defence after Wallace formally stepped down on Thursday morning, having first announced his intention to do so in July.

The Financial Times revealed on Wednesday that a reshuffle was imminent and that Shapps, previously energy security secretary, was a surprise frontrunner for the defence secretary role.

His move from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero means a second cabinet appointment is expected in the coming hours.

Shapps visited Ukraine last week, posting a video of his trip on the social media site X. “What I saw in Kyiv this week was a people resolute in their defiance against Putin’s tyranny and Russia’s aggression,” he wrote.

He is viewed across government as an unflappable media performer with sharp political instincts, qualities Downing Street will want to exploit in the upcoming general election campaign. “He’s a safe pair of hands,” said one Tory insider.

However, his lack of experience in defence has raised eyebrows in armed forces circles. A senior military official told the FT the appointment “feels too political”, and questioned whether Shapps had a foreign policy, defence or security “bone in his body”.

Wallace issued his resignation letter to the prime minister earlier on Thursday with a warning that the world would become “more insecure and more unstable” over the next decade.

He said he left the MoD “back on the path to being once again world-class with world-class people”, as he urged Sunak not to treat defence expenditure as discretionary and achieve savings “by hollowing out” Britain’s armed forces.

The prime minister paid tribute to Wallace’s four years in post, during which he played a key role in shaping the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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