Ben Wallace (politician)


Ben Wallace
Official portrait of Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2020
Secretary of State for Defence
Assumed office
24 July 2019
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byPenny Mordaunt
Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime
In office
17 July 2016 – 24 July 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byJohn Hayes
Succeeded byBrandon Lewis
Minister of State for Northern Ireland
In office
12 May 2015 – 17 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byAndrew Murrison
Succeeded byKris Hopkins
Member of Parliament
for Wyre and Preston North
Lancaster and Wyre (2005–2010)
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded byHilton Dawson
Majority16,781 (31.7%)
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for North East Scotland
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
In office
6 May 1999 – 31 March 2003
Personal details
Robert Ben Lobban Wallace

(1970-05-15) 15 May 1970 (age 51)
Farnborough, London, England
Political partyConservative
Liza Cooke
(m. 2001)
Alma materRoyal Military Academy Sandhurst
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1991–1998
UnitScots Guards
Battles/warsThe Troubles
AwardsMentioned in dispatches
Wallace at The Pentagon, 5 March 2020

Robert Ben Lobban Wallace (born 15 May 1970) is a British politician serving as Secretary of State for Defence since 24 July 2019. He was previously the UK's longest-serving Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime from 2016 to 2019. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Wyre and Preston North, formerly Lancaster and Wyre, since 2005.

Wallace previously served as a captain in the Scots Guards regiment of the British Army. He was a Conservative list Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland from 1999 to 2003.[1][2] He stood down in 2003 and moved to Lancashire as he sought selection for a Westminster constituency in England.[3][4]

Wallace served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Justice Secretary, and later Minister without Portfolio, Ken Clarke from 2010 to 2014. Wallace was a whip from July 2014 to May 2015. He served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Northern Ireland Office under David Cameron from 2015 to 2016. He served under Prime Minister Theresa May as Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime at the Home Office from 2016 to 2019. A supporter of Boris Johnson's leadership bid, Johnson appointed Wallace as Secretary of State for Defence after he was appointed Prime Minister.

Early life and career

Wallace was born on 15 May 1970 in Farnborough, London, England.[5] He attended the independent school, Millfield in Somerset.[6] After school, Wallace became a ski instructor with the Austrian National Ski School in the village of Alpbach in Austria.[7]

Wallace attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, before he was commissioned in 1991 into the Scots Guards.[4] From 1991 to 1998, he served in Germany, Cyprus, Belize, and Northern Ireland, rising to the rank of captain. During his time in Northern Ireland, he was mentioned in dispatches in 1992 for an incident in which the patrol he was commanding captured an entire IRA active service unit attempting to carry out a bomb attack against British troops.[2][8]

Political career

Scottish Parliament

After leaving the Army, Wallace decided to enter politics in part because of the experience he had commanding men from some of the UK's most economically deprived areas which he believed could be improved by promoting a more aspirational society.[8] Wallace became a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, as a list MSP for North East Scotland.[3][4] He stood down in 2003, as he sought selection for a Westminster constituency in England.[3][4] Wallace was the Scottish Conservatives' shadow health spokesman during that time.[4]

From 2003 to 2005 he was overseas director of the aerospace company QinetiQ, the UK's former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).[6]

Member of UK Parliament

Wallace was elected as MP for the Lancaster and Wyre constituency in the 2005 general election. He won 22,266 votes with a majority of 4,171 (8.0%).[9] The seat had previously been held by the Labour Party's Hilton Dawson.[10] The constituency was abolished in 2010 and in the 2010 general election he was elected as MP in the new seat of Wyre and Preston North with 26,877 votes and a majority of 15,844 (30.9%).[11] Wallace was re-elected at the 2015, 2017 and 2019 general elections.[12]

From 2005 to 2010 Wallace was a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.[13] From 2006 to 2010 Wallace was the Shadow Minister of State for Scotland. He was Chairman of the British–Iran Parliamentary Group from 2006 to 2014. On 13 November 2008, Wallace was awarded Campaigner of the Year in the Spectator/Threadneedle Parliamentarian awards, for his work promoting transparency of MPs expenses.[14][15]

Wallace faced criticism locally after it was revealed he had the fourth highest expenses claim of any MP in the UK in 2008, claiming £175,523 on top of his £63,000 salary. However, he defended the costs by arguing that the constituency has an electorate that is nearly 20% larger than the average one in England.[16]

Junior ministerial roles

Following his re-election to Parliament in 2010, Wallace was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then-Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, and later Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, Ken Clarke MP.[citation needed] On 4 September 2012, Wallace turned down a position as a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury during the cabinet reshuffle[citation needed] to remain Clarke's PPS.[17] He voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales.[18]

In July 2014, as Clarke returned to the back benches, Wallace was again offered a job in Government as a whip. This time he accepted. In May 2015 he was promoted to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland Office.

After the EU referendum, the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, promoted him to Minister of State for Security in the Home Office. In December 2017 the Ministerial portfolio was extended to include Economic Crime. He was the Security Minister during the terror attacks of 2017 and the Salisbury attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal. Wallace was appointed to the Privy Council for his role in coordinating the government response to the 2017 Westminster attack.[19]

Wallace supported the UK remaining within the European Union (EU) prior to the 2016 referendum.[20] He voted for then Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement in early 2019, and voted against any referendum on a Brexit withdrawal agreement.[21]

In February 2018, Wallace was criticised by political opponents for promoting unfounded smears on the leader of the Labour Party. The Sun newspaper had alleged that during the 1980s Jeremy Corbyn had colluded with a Communist spy. In response to the allegations, a spokesman for Corbyn stated that any suggestion that the Labour leader had been an agent, asset or informer was "an entirely false and a ridiculous smear".[22] Amidst these allegations, Wallace was criticised for tweeting: "'Jeremy has been interested in foreign policy issues his entire political career' [sic] – Labour MP Louise Haigh, BBC Daily Politics – yup so was Kim Philby". Wallace later defended his tweet, and said he "wasn't comparing, just saying that being interested in foreign policy isn't an answer to the allegations being made". Wallace told Sky News: "It was a light-hearted dig at Louise Haigh's excuse that Corbyn was interested in foreign affairs ... I was simply saying Kim Philby was also interested in foreign affairs".[23][24]

Secretary of State for Defence

Wallace (left) meeting with the United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at Horse Guards in September 2019
Wallace with U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson in September 2020

On 24 July 2019, Wallace was appointed Secretary of State for Defence by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, succeeding Penny Mordaunt.[25] In August 2019, he was overheard discussing Prime Minister Johnson's controversial prorogation with Florence Parly, the French Minister of Armies. Wallace suggested that the reason for the prorogation of parliament for five weeks was to prevent MPs from blocking the government's Brexit plans rather than the government's official position that it was to introduce new legislative agenda. The government responded to his comments by stating he had "misspoken".[26][27] This prorogation was later deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court on 24 September 2019.[28]

On 13 October 2019, Wallace defended Turkey's offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces in north-eastern Syria in a NATO meeting. He commented, "Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself". His comments were condemned by other delegates at the meeting.[29][30]

On 12 January 2020, in an interview with The Sunday Times, Wallace said that the UK "must be prepared to fight wars without the US", one of the UK's key allies. He stated that the upcoming Defence Review "should be used to make the UK less dependent on the US in future conflicts". His comments were made in response to US President Donald Trump's America First isolationist policies. Wallace also said that the next Defence Review would be the "deepest review" of Britain's defence and foreign policies since the end of the Cold War in 1991.[31]

Wallace said the US put Britain in a "very difficult position" following the withdrawal of most US troops from Afghanistan.[32] Soon after the withdrawal of US troops had started, the Taliban had launched an offensive against the Afghan government, quickly advancing in front of a collapsing Afghan Armed Forces.[33] Wallace said the UK would be ready to work with the Taliban should they come to power provided they adhere to certain international norms.[34]

On 16 August 2021, during an interview on LBC about the US Afghanistan withdrawal, Wallace was asked by an LBC interviewer, "Why do you feel it so personally, Mr Wallace?" He replied with emotion; "Because I'm a soldier... because it's sad, and the West has done what it's done and we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations".[35] On 26 August, Wallace was accused[by whom?] of abandoning Pen Farthing, who ran an animal sanctuary in Kabul and was seeking permission for a private jet to be given clearance by the Ministry of Defence to get 71 people and more than 100 animals to the UK.[36] The next day, he gave clearance for the $500,000 private plane to land at Kabul Airport.[37] Wallace said Ministry of Defence staff had suffered abuse from some of Farthing's supporters.[38]

Personal life

He married Liza Cooke in 2001 and they have three children.[39] His wife worked as a part-time parliamentary assistant in his office until 30 April 2019.[40] They met when she was a researcher in the Scottish Parliament and Wallace was a MSP.[41] Wallace lives in Lancashire, and in London.[42][43]


General Service Medal 1962 BAR.svg General Service Medal Northern Ireland Clasp Mentioned in Despatches
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Diamond Jubilee Medal


  1. ^ "New defence secretary Ben Wallace has defended Stracathro Hospital and fox hunting". The Courier. The Courier. 26 April 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sabbagh, Dan (8 September 2019). "Defence secretary under fire for appearing to condone torture". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Ben Wallace: Captain Fantastic heads south of the border". The Scotsman. 26 March 2002. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Farewell to the parliament". BBC News. 2 April 2003. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  5. ^ Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (9 June 2018). "Ben Wallace: we don't set out to kill terrorists". The Times.
  6. ^ a b "Ben Wallace: Electoral history and profile". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 September 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  7. ^ "Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime – The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP". Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b "The Ben Wallace One". BBC. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Result: Lancaster & Wyre". BBC News. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Mr Hilton Dawson". Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Wyre and Preston North". UK Polling Report. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Wyre & Preston North". BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Mr Ben Wallace MP – UK Parliament". 20 July 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Matthew d'Ancona's Parliamentarian awards speech". 13 November 2008. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  15. ^ Andrew Gimson (13 November 2008). "Sketch: George Osborne laughs it off". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  16. ^ "MP's biscuit claim among expenses". The Garstang Courier. The Garstang Courier. 1 April 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  17. ^ "Cameron: Man or mouse? Man – and butcher! The Tory Diary". 6 September 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  18. ^ "MP-by-MP: Gay marriage vote". BBC News. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  19. ^ Agerholm, Harriet (24 March 2017). "MPs Tobias Ellwood and Ben Wallace appointed to Privy Council in honour of Westminster response". The Independent. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  20. ^ Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  21. ^ "How MPs voted on May's withdrawal deal defeat". Financial Times. 29 March 2019. Archived from the original on 2 September 2019.
  22. ^ Fisher, Lucy (15 February 2018). "Jeremy Corbyn 'can't be trusted' after claims he met Soviet spy, says Gavin Williamson". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  23. ^ "Andrew Neil Clobbers Tory Minister Steve Baker For 'Outrageous Smears' Against Jeremy Corbyn". HuffPost UK. 21 February 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Tory MP deletes Corbyn spy claim after threat of legal action". Sky News. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Ben Wallace Named New Defence Secretary". Forces Network. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  26. ^ "Defence Secretary Ben Wallace overheard discussing Parliament suspension". BBC News. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  27. ^ Sheridan, Danielle (29 August 2019). "Defence Secretary caught on camera suggesting Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament because he has 'no majority'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Supreme Court: Suspending Parliament was unlawful, judges rule". BBC News. 24 September 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  29. ^ Nicholls, Dominic; Crisp, James (14 October 2019). "Britain accused of putting trade deals before condemnation of Turkey". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  30. ^ Fisher, Lucy (15 October 2019). "Defence secretary Ben Wallace's support for Turkey surprises Nato". The Times. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Ben Wallace: UK 'must be prepared to fight wars without US'". BBC News. 12 January 2020.
  32. ^ "Johnson confirms most British troops have left Afghanistan". Politico. Associated Press. 8 July 2021.
  33. ^ Robertson, Nic (24 June 2021). "Afghanistan is disintegrating fast as Biden's troop withdrawal continues". CNN.
  34. ^ "British Defence Minister says UK will work with Taliban should they come to power - Telegraph". Reuters. 14 July 2021.
  35. ^ Rogers, Alexandra (16 August 2021). "'Some People Won't Get Back' – UK Defence Secretary Breaks Down Over Afghanistan Crisis". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  36. ^ "Marine stuck in Afghanistan says rescue plane for his team 'not coming'". ITV News. 23 August 2021.
  37. ^ "Ex-Royal Marine Pen Farthing given go-ahead to leave Afghanistan with animals". ITV News. 25 August 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  38. ^ "Afghanistan: Pen Farthing sorry for foul-mouthed message to aide". BBC News. 30 August 2021.
  39. ^ Wallace, Rt Hon. (Robert) Ben (Lobban). UK Who's Who. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U38694. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  40. ^ "Register of Members' Financial Interests" (PDF). p. 460. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  41. ^ "Outrage at ban threat on MP family workers". Lancashire Post. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  42. ^ "About Ben". Personal website. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  43. ^ "IPSA record". IPSA. Retrieved 20 May 2018.

External links

News articles
  • Yobs in June 2005
  • Iris scanning in January 2007
  • Explaining his expenses in February 2008
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Member of Parliament
for Lancaster and Wyre

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Wyre and Preston North

Political offices
Preceded by
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Secretary of State for Defence