Grant Shapps: Don’t underestimate me on defending the country

He urged critics – including the former head of the British Army, Lord Dannatt – not to “underestimate me when it comes to defending the country”.

A Tory defence source, when Mr Shapps was appointed, claimed the new Defence Secretary doesn’t know the “difference between a tank and a fighter jet”, adding that it would be “beyond bonkers” for someone without military experience to hold the post.

Mr Shapps hit back: “Look, what the Ministry of Defence needs is highly experienced Cabinet ministers who can run a complex infrastructure-orientated department.

“I’ve had a lot of experience of running very large budgets and complex departments.”

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Mr Shapps added that “only two of the last 15 defence secretaries have had any military background”. And he pointed out: “What I do know is how to run the department.

“So don’t underestimate me when it comes to defending the country or the department.”

In his first media appearances since taking up the post, the Cabinet minister insisted he would fight for extra money for defence.

He said he wanted to “see a higher defence budget”, adding he “fully” supports increasing defence spending to 2½ percent of GDP.

Mr Wallace had played a key role in galvanising international support to arm the Ukrainian military.

In a letter to PM Rishi Sunak after resigning from the Cabinet last week, he warned that “over the next decade, the world will get more insecure and more unstable”.

Mr Wallace added: “I know you agree with me that we must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out.”

Asked if he would be as vocal as Mr Wallace, Mr Shapps suggested he would lobby for higher spending but would “do it in my own way”.

He pointed out defence spending was already on the rise, with the aim of it going up to 2½ percent.

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Mr Shapps said: “I fully support that. I think it’s very important that we are protected as a nation, but also that we’re doing our part around the world to help the world be better protected.”

But Mr Shapps was left red-faced by his lack of military knowledge yesterday.

He confused the Royal Navy with the Royal Air Force as he described the UK’s aircraft carriers as being “the largest carriers the RAF has ever had”. He also couldn’t answer how many ranks there are in the British Army.

Lord Dannatt had said Mr Shapps knew “very little about defence”, adding it would take him “quite some time to get up to speed”.

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