British foreign minister Liz Truss received a boost for her campaign to become the country’s next prime minister when Defence Secretary Ben Wallace gave her his support on Friday.

Wallace, who rose in popularity thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis, had been seen as the early favourite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister before he ruled himself out in favour of focussing on his defence role.

He said Truss, who is on course to defeat former finance minister Rishi Sunak according to opinion polls of members of the ruling Conservative Party, was “authentic” and “straight”.

“I have sat with her in cabinet, bilateral meetings and international summits. She stands her ground. Above all, she is straight and means what she says,” he wrote in the Times.

 

The winner of the tussle will become the fourth prime minister in 12 years of Conservative rule after Johnson was forced to resign following a series of scandals.

The decision is in the hands of Conservative Party members, numbering about 200,000 last year, and will be announced on Sept. 5. A YouGov poll last week gave her a 24-point lead over Sunak. read more

Truss has pledged to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030, while Sunak has not said how much he would spend on defence but has described NATO’s 2% of GDP target as a “floor, not a ceiling”.

Wallace also took a swipe at Sunak for quitting as Johnson’s chancellor of the exchequer in early July which helped trigger a wave of other resignations that culminated in Johnson announcing that he would stand down.

 

“I don’t have the luxury as defence secretary of just walking out the door — I have roles in keeping this country safe,” Wallace said in an interview with The Sun newspaper.

“And the guardian of the markets, you know, the guardian of our economy, is the chancellor.”

Whoever wins will have to tackle a host of problems from a cost of living crisis, a struggling national health service, and the fallout from Britain’s departure from the European Union.

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