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Military tells Grant Shapps to stop plotting to become Tory leader and work ‘flat out’ to build up the UK’s armed forces


Grant Shapps was last night told he should be ‘working flat out’ at building up the UK’s Armed Forces amid claims he is plotting to become the next Tory leader.

As the dangers Britain faces were yesterday underlined by a chilling threat of a Russian nuclear attack on London, the Defence Secretary faced allegations that he was distracted by his leadership ambitions.

Following the Conservatives‘ double by-election drubbing last week, The Mail on Sunday reported claims that the former energy secretary was spending as few as ‘six days a month’ at the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Shapps was said to have ‘set aside’ Tuesday afternoons to discuss ‘strategy’ with his ‘inner circle’, with a WhatsApp group used for his abortive 2022 leadership bid allegedly revived to plan his next one. Called SLAP – the Shapps Leadership Action Plan – it is said to be used to discuss policies and levels of Commons support.

As the dangers Britain faces were yesterday underlined by a chilling threat of a Russian nuclear attack on London, the Defence Secretary faced allegations that he was distracted by his leadership ambitions. Pictured: Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps

As the dangers Britain faces were yesterday underlined by a chilling threat of a Russian nuclear attack on London, the Defence Secretary faced allegations that he was distracted by his leadership ambitions. Pictured: Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps

Colonel Richard Kemp (pictured), a former Army commander in Afghanistan, said the country's defences 'are woefully inadequate'

Colonel Richard Kemp (pictured), a former Army commander in Afghanistan, said the country’s defences ‘are woefully inadequate’

Sources close to Mr Shapps yesterday insisted he was ‘working non-stop, seven days a week’ in his role as Defence Secretary. They said it was ‘bizarre’ that he was being criticised for leaving Whitehall to visit military bases or meet international allies and stressed that he was ‘fully behind’ Rishi Sunak.

However retired military officers and opposition MPs said that at a time of acute global instability, Mr Shapps should make his day job his ‘No 1 priority’.

A former Army commander in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, told the Mail: ‘With our country facing some of its biggest threats in many years, our defences are woefully inadequate.

‘Everybody involved in the UK’s Armed Forces should be working flat out to get us into shape.’

Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a former Navy commander, said: ‘The No 1 priority for Grant Shapps should be to provide a credible nuclear and conventional defence and deterrence against Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.’

Labour MP Kevan Jones, a member of the Commons defence committee, said: ‘At a time when this country is facing such a dangerous moment, Grant Shapps should be concentrating on his day job rather than furthering any ambitions he may have to become prime minister.’

Mr Shapps’s appointment as Defence Secretary last August was viewed at Westminster as a reward for his loyalty to Mr Sunak. It was his fifth Cabinet post in just 12 months, sparking warnings that he faced ‘a very steep learning curve’ if he was to master his new brief and argue the case for extra military spending.

Labour MP Kevan Jones (pictured) said: 'At a time when this country is facing such a dangerous moment, Grant Shapps should be concentrating on his day job rather than furthering any ambitions he may have to become prime minister.'

Labour MP Kevan Jones (pictured) said: ‘At a time when this country is facing such a dangerous moment, Grant Shapps should be concentrating on his day job rather than furthering any ambitions he may have to become prime minister.’

Mr Shapps's appointment as Defence Secretary last August was viewed at Westminster as a reward for his loyalty to Mr Sunak (pictured)

Mr Shapps’s appointment as Defence Secretary last August was viewed at Westminster as a reward for his loyalty to Mr Sunak (pictured)

During his short-lived leadership campaign two years ago, he pledged to raise defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP, saying the Ukraine war had changed Europe’s security landscape ‘out of all recognition’.

Since then, the state of Britain’s Armed Forces has been thrown into sharper focus amid increasingly chilling rhetoric from Vladimir Putin, who has been emboldened by the suspected murder of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the key eastern town of Avdiivka.

Yesterday his predecessor and key ally Dmitry Medvedev warned that the Kremlin would fire nuclear missiles on London, Washington, Berlin and Kyiv if Russia was forced to give up the swathes of Ukraine it has seized. Medvedev – who is deputy head of the Russian security council – said nuclear conflict would be preferable to ‘violent civil war with the final disappearance of our country from the world map’.

He added: ‘Attempts to return Russia to the borders of 1991 will lead to only one thing – towards a global war with Western countries using the entire strategic arsenal of our state.’

His bellicose rhetoric comes amid increasing fears within Nato that the US could not be relied on to help defend the bloc should Donald Trump win a second term in the White House. The former President told a campaign rally that he would ‘encourage’ Russia to attack members of the alliance who fail to commit to spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence.

During his short-lived leadership campaign two years ago, he pledged to raise defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP, saying the Ukraine war had changed Europe's security landscape 'out of all recognition'

During his short-lived leadership campaign two years ago, he pledged to raise defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP, saying the Ukraine war had changed Europe’s security landscape ‘out of all recognition’

Nato members are reportedly racing up to meet this commitment ahead of a conference marking the alliance’s 75th anniversary in July.

After decades of decline, UK defence spending has steadily increased since 2019, reaching 2.2 per cent of GDP last year. But Mr Shapps was unable to give a date for when the Government would hit its target of 2.5 per cent, despite acknowledging that Britain was moving towards ‘a pre-war world’.

Last night a source close to Mr Shapps said: ‘The Defence Secretary is working hard to address those challenges facing defence, from accommodation to recruitment to the impacts of inflation.

‘That’s his absolute priority and he’s fighting hard for what defence needs every single day. Unlike others, he isn’t plotting and is fully behind the PM to win the election.’



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