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Who could be the next Defence Secretary?  

Welcome to Thursday’s Early Edition from i.

Just over a month ago, Ben Wallace revealed he would be standing down from his post as Defence Secretary in the next Cabinet reshuffle, bringing an end to his four year post, which has made him the longest-serving defence minister since Sir Winston Churchill. The MP for Wyre and Preston North, who is expected to step down from that too at the next election, said he was quitting due to the toll the job had taken on his family. Now that promised Cabinet reshuffle appears to be imminent, with a number of reports suggesting Rishi Sunak may announce a new Defence Secretary as soon as today, and very likely by next week, when MPs return from their summer break. Some surprise names have entered the fray. We’ll take a look at who they are and why the timing might be crucial, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

Voters have little confidence that either Labour or the Tories have plans to get a grip of the cost of living crisis, despite the issue being among Britons’ biggest priorities, polling shows. The ongoing strain on household budgets was named as the second most pressing matter facing the country behind the NHS in research carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Stop The Squeeze campaign.

Jeremy Hunt has ruled out significantly cutting taxes before the end of this year, in a move which has enraged Conservative MPs. The Chancellor has told Treasury officials there will not be cuts to any of the major levies although he is still hoping to reduce the tax burden in a pre-election Budget, i understands.

An estimated 121,000 patients died while waiting for NHS treatment in England last year, according to Labour. Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests suggest record numbers of people are “spending their final months in pain and agony” while in line for care, Wes Streeting, the shadow Health Secretary, said.

A new blood test has the potential to diagnose Parkinson’s disease at least a decade earlier than existing methods because it detects a key cause of the condition, its developers say. If the new diagnostic tool is show to be safe and effective in larger trials and becomes available on the NHS, it could have a transformational effect on the lives of thousands of people every year.

Airlines face fines of up to £1m if they fail passengers with unnecessary delays or unpaid refunds under legislation expected in the King’s Speech this autumn, i can reveal. Ministers have been considering giving tougher powers to the UK’s aviation watchdog for months, but the response by some firms to this week’s air traffic chaos has underlined the urgency in Whitehall to act.

Pret a Manger has been fined £800,000 after an employee was trapped in one of its freezers for more than two hours. The employee was wearing jeans and T-shirt when she was stuck in a walk-in freezer. Westminster magistrates court heard she had tried to use a cardboard box full of chocolate croissants to try to stave off hypothermia.

Three key questions over a new Defence Secretary:

Who are the surprise contenders? Two different reports overnight named Grant Shapps, the Energy Security Secretary, and Liam Fox as possible frontrunners for the job. If Mr Shapps were successful, it would mark his fifth Cabinet job in just the past year. According to the Financial Times, government insiders say he is being considered for the job but he is not yet a certainty. Another report, this time by the Daily Telegraph, suggested Liam Fox could return to the position, some 12 years after he sensationally resigned from the post. Mr Fox last held a Cabinet position in 2019, when he was International Trade Secretary. But many will remember his time as Defence Secretary under David Cameron, when he was afterwards found to have broken the ministerial code. He resigned in October 2011 amid pressure over his working relationship with friend and adviser Adam Werritty. In his resignation letter, Mr Fox wrote: “I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred”. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a minister has returned to a senior job in government after being sacked or resigning, but nevertheless reports of his possible return have been met with shock. Even the Telegraph notes: “Downing Street would have to explain why he was being handed a post from which he resigned amid controversy.”

Who else might be in the running? It’s previously been suggested that John Glen, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is a likely contender for the job. He has been a minister in various departments since 2017 and has served under three prime ministers. Security minister Tom Tugenhat and foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan have also been named, as have Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, security minister Sir Brandon Lewis, Jeremy Quin, a Cabinet Office minister who previously served as defence procurement minister and James Heappey, the armed forces minister. You can read more about who might be in and out at the next Cabinet reshuffle here. One name notably absent from the list is Penny Mordaunt, who earlier this month hinted that she might quite like the job.

Why now? While it’s no secret that a reshuffle of some kind is on the cards, there may be a number of reasons as to why Mr Sunak is keen to get a wriggle on. One factor will be the fact that MPs are due to come back from summer recess next week. But as the Sun’s Jack Elsom told TalkTV last night, the PM may be keen to replace Mr Wallace before conference season kicks off too. He said Tories may not “want Ben Wallace who has been has at times critical of Rishi Sunak, especially when it comes to defence cuts, potentially using a conference platform as his final hurrah, potentially settling a few scores.” He added that a wider Cabinet reshuffle could take place after conference to prepare for the upcoming general election.

Passengers wait at Stansted Airport amid flight chaos (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

 Around the world

“I don’t think anyone can deny the impact of the crisis climate anymore,” Joe Biden said after Hurricane Idalia left a trail of destruction across Florida – and just weeks after fires devastated Hawaii. The US president said: “Just look around: Historic floods, more intense droughts, extreme heat, wildfires have caused significant damage like we’ve never seen before, not only throughout Hawaii and the US but in Canada and other parts of the world.”

Western countries including the UK and France face “very difficult” decisions in how to respond to the military seizing power in Gabon, experts say, after the eighth coup in western and central regions of the continent in the past two years. “It’s a very difficult judgement for external actors,” Paul Melly, consulting fellow in the Africa Programme at Chatham House, told i.

The mother of embattled Spanish football association chief Luis Rubiales was taken to hospital on Wednesday evening after embarking on a three-day hunger strike against what she claimed was a “witch hunt” against her son. Angeles Bejar had locked herself in a church in her hometown of Motril in southern Spain on Monday to protest the treatment of her son.

Japan’s Prime Minister was filmed eating “safe and delicious” fish from Fukushima after treated water was released from the stricken nuclear plant into the ocean. “This is very good,” Fumio Kishida said as he ate a portion of flounder sashimi.

A beekeeper in Canada was confronted with a “pretty crazy cloud of bees” who were “angry confused and homeless” after five million of the buzzing insects fell off a truck. The public were told to stay away from the area after the straps holding their hives in place came loose, allowing them to slip free.

 Watch out for…

 Princess Diana’s famous red and white ‘black sheep’ jumper, which is going on auction after being lost for decades – and on the anniversary of her death. It’s predicted the garment could go for £70,000. 

 Thoughts for the day

When it comes to China, the UK is utterly clueless. The closest thing we have to any kind of Government view on China is contained in the Integrated Review, writes Ian Dunt.

There is a bitter battle going on in Mid Bedfordshire – but it’s not about Nadine Dorries. The power tussle between Labour and the Liberal Democrats is turning toxic, reveals Katy Balls.

I’m so skint that I’m being forced to go clubbing without drinking. The cost-of-living crisis has certainly had a sobering effect on my bank account, explains Bryony Gooch.

‘I cut out the unnecessary expense: booze,’ writes Bryony Gooch (Photo: Flashpop/Getty)

 Culture Break

How 2:22 A Ghost Story’s star casting made it the West End’s most notorious show. Lily Allen bagged an Olivier nomination starring in the haunted house horror smash. Then came Cheryl, Love Island’s Laura Whitmore and Frankie Bridge from The Saturdays.

The cast has included, clockwise from left top row, Jake Wood, Laura Whitmore, Mandip Gill, Frankie Bridge, Jaime Winstone, Tom Felton, Giovanna Fletcher, Cheryl and Lily Allen

 The Big Read

My life in exile as Vladimir Putin’s ex-speechwriter – and why I’m not afraid. Abbas Gallyamov worked closely with the Russian leader during his first decade in power, but now believes him to be suffering from mental illness and turning to religion as he begins to accept his own mortality, reports David Parsley.

Abbas Gallyamov was a speechwriter to Vladimir Putin during his first decade in power


Newcastle ‘closed for business’ with no centre-back in sight as deadline day looms. With just 48 hours until the summer transfer window closes, it looks unlikely that they will now make that move, writes Mark Douglas.

Newcastle may end up finishing the summer transfer window without signing a centre-back (Photos: Getty)

 Something to brighten your day

I wore a facekini around London to protect my skin and the public were united in their response. I can see that I do look like I’m about to rob a bank in a Barbie-pink balaclava. I also, let’s be honest, look very much like a gimp, writes Kasia Delgado.

I’m trying out the facekini to see whether I can be a sun-safe trend-setter (Photo: Supplied)

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