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Mandatory national service for 18-year-olds if Tories win election, Sunak vows

25 May 2024 4 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.Photo Oli Scarff/PA Wire

Eighteen year olds would be forced to carry out a form of national service if the Tories are voted back in at the July 4 General Election, Rishi Sunak has announced.

The Prime Minister said Britain has “generations of young people who have not had the opportunities they deserve” as he claimed the policy would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world”.

In future, 18-year-olds would be given a choice between a full-time placement in the armed forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year volunteering in their community, the Tories said.

In an apparent pitch to older voters, the party said this could include helping local fire, police and NHS services as well as charities tackling loneliness and supporting elderly, isolated people.

Unserious

Opposition critics dismissed the plans as unserious, with Labour saying the pledge would never come to fruition and amounted to “another unfunded commitment”.

The Prime Minister is seeking to draw a dividing line with Sir Keir Starmer’s party on global security following his pledge to raise defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product by 2030.

Heightening his attack on Saturday, Mr Sunak said voters would be left “at risk” with the Labour leader in Number 10 because Britain’s enemies would notice that he “doesn’t have a plan”.

Teenagers who choose to sign up for a placement in the forces would “learn and take part in logistics, cyber security, procurement or civil response operations”, the Tories said.

The Conservatives said they would establish a royal commission bringing in expertise from across the military and civil society to establish the details of what they described as the “bold” national service programme.

The party said this commission would be tasked with bringing forward a proposal for how to ensure the first pilot is open for applications in September 2025.

National Service Act

After that, it would seek to introduce a new “National Service Act” to make the measures compulsory by the end of the next Parliament, the party said.

It estimates the programme will cost £2.5 billion a year by the end of the decade and plans to fund £1 billion through plans to “crack down on tax avoidance and evasion”.

The remaining £1.5 billion will be paid for with money previously used for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which is a package to support charities and community groups, the Tories said.

The Prime Minister said: “This is a great country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve and there are forces trying to divide our society in this increasingly uncertain world.

“I have a clear plan to address this and secure our future. I will bring in a new model of national service to create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country.

“This new, mandatory national service will provide life-changing opportunities for our young people, offering them the chance to learn real world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country.”

‘Dangerous’

Earlier on Saturday, the PM suggested a government led by Sir Keir would be marked by uncertainty and a “more dangerous world.”

“The consequences of uncertainty are clear. No plan means a more dangerous world. You, your family and our country are all at risk if Labour win,” he said.

Sir Keir’s party pointed out that Lord David Cameron introduced a similar scheme – the National Citizen Service – when he was prime minister.

Lord Cameron’s announcement had no military component to it, instead encouraging youngsters to take part in activities such as outdoor education-style courses as part of his “Big Society” initiative.

A Labour spokesperson said: “This is not a plan – it’s a review which could cost billions and is only needed because the Tories hollowed out the armed forces to their smallest size since Napoleon.

“Britain has had enough of the Conservatives, who are bankrupt of ideas, and have no plans to end 14 years of chaos. It’s time to turn the page and rebuild Britain with Labour.”

Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson Richard Foord MP said: “If the Conservatives were serious about defence, they would reverse their damaging cuts to our world class professional armed forces, instead of decimating them, with swingeing cuts to the number of our regular service personnel.

“Our armed forces were once the envy of the world. This Conservative government has cut troop numbers and is planning more cuts to the size of the Army.

“This would be far better spent reversing Conservative cuts to troop numbers.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

When this loony came to Cymru did someone give him a bag of ‘Welsh Mushrooms’, he’s off his head!

These ‘think tanks’ are they designed in America and assembled on campus before distribution to the Senedd…

Last edited 21 days ago by Mab Meirion
Llyn
Llyn
21 days ago

Conscription of 18yr olds – a Tory policy which refutes the silly idea put out out by Plaid and it’s supporters that Labour and the Tories are the same.

Annibendod
Annibendod
21 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

Not seen Labour say they’d stick to Tory spending plans? Not seen Starmer surrounding himself in all the flag waving symbolism of British Nationalism? Not seen Starmer welcoming a Hard Right Tory into Labour ranks? Not noticed his courting of the Conservative vote? Not seen the purge of Left Wing members?

Llyn
Llyn
21 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

This nonsense that Labour and Conservative are exactly the same is as daft and as counter productive as the Communist Party’s ridiculous ‘Social Fascism’ doctrine of the 1930s (which saw social democracy as moderate form of fascism).

CapM
CapM
21 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

When it comes to how they treat Cymru they are very similar.
As LS-R pointed out this morning

Labour do not want the Crown estate to be devolved in Cymru as it is in Scotland
it’s ENGLAND&wales for us.
Labour do not want Cymru to get any consequential of the money already spent on H2 as Scotland and NI have..
It’s ENGLAND&wales for us.

And Labour as well as the Tories have during the past decades of -your turn my turn governments both refused to revise the Barnett formula.

Llyn
Llyn
21 days ago
Reply to  CapM

There are 2 outcomes of this GE. A Labour or Tory UK Gov. A Tory Gov with David TC Davies as Sec State for Wales will see continued muscular Unionism and erosions of Welsh devolution. A Labour gov will see some additional powers, fiscal and legal, go to the Senedd and Welsh Gov. I like you would like to see more but politics is about what is possible and sometimes the best worst option.

CapM
CapM
20 days ago
Reply to  Llyn

Both Tories and Labour are muscle bound enforcers of Unionism whish is basically British Nationalism but both parties insist on the ‘Union’ euphemism.

A Labour government ensures a future Tory government at some point which might well be worse for anyone who “would like to see more” than the one we’ve endured for 14 years.

The possible is to have as many MPs we can in Westminster that put what’s good for Cymru before what’s good for any other country or a political party.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
21 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Starmer is the first Labour MP since and before Blair to be given an easy ride by the Media. Every other Candidate has been ridiculed, belittled (Remember the front page Milliband eating a bacon sarnie!)The destruction of Kinnock, The Utter Libellous drivel, day after day about Corbyn? But Starmer is NOT Labour, he is an Establishment Plant to make sure we get more of the same, His treatment of any Labour MP or Councillor who dares disagree with hi would have done Stalin proud!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

A form of ‘National Service’ could be a year on lone playing for Ukraine…

Lord Kitchenporter ‘wants you’ to perform a miracle for him…

Annibendod
Annibendod
21 days ago

I can’t put it any better than Ozzy so here it is ….

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor, yeah

Did Rishi do national service? Perhaps he could volunteer to help in Ukraine? No? There we are then.

Annibendod
Annibendod
21 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Also remind’s me of Alan Partridge’s desperate programme suggestions when he tries to keep his job at the BBC.

“Monkey tennis?”

Rob
Rob
21 days ago

What?

Marc
Marc
21 days ago

Is that a nuclear bomb going off in the background? Whose idea was it to put an 18 year old in charge of the button?

Jeff
Jeff
21 days ago
Reply to  Marc

They have sold off the button to a hedge fund based in the Virgin Islands.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

Each image of the Five Prime Ministers of the Apocalypse is a grotesque but Rishi’s is truly nauseating…

Last edited 21 days ago by Mab Meirion
Jeff
Jeff
21 days ago

This idea is barking mad. There is a sop to his rich backers for the few kids that will drop out but a lot of wealthy kids will miss this because of privilege. This is an attack on the poor. Again. This is just disgusting now. His is the party that has run down the forces of the UK (army drop from 100k since 2010 to 72k and they are still cutting it) and Cummings was going to run a review? And he is the safe pair of hands? Same bloke that ran covid as an opportunity and his eat… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

The chance to put a line under that list is coming…

So is the time to start a new list…

‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ Pete Townsend The Who…read the lyrics..,

Jeff
Jeff
21 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I missed a few bits. Such as running down services so much they will now force young adults to the grindstone. Ah, but, many will have a vote……

hdavies15
hdavies15
21 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

1970…. but still oh so valid today. There was a time when a spot of national service might have been beneficial but that was a very long time ago. Right now we need governments with real economic strategies that will require labour of all skills levels to take us forward. Eliminate zero hours and similar low wage jobs and get a balanced work ethic back into mainstream values and culture.

But it’s a lot easier to come out with yet another of Rishi’s nonsense lines.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

My elder brothers did NS, the jury is still out on that one…

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
21 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

395 NationalSevicemen were killed in action 1945-63. My father spent 18 months in Cyprus, often on rooftops of buildings in Nicosia with a radio listening to shots ringing around. Beneficial?.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

Don’t mention Korea, the ‘forgotten about’ war, then all the atomic Pacific tests…

My eldest was in the Cameroons for a year. He couldn’t be in the same room as a banana after that…

hdavies15
hdavies15
20 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

My cousin lost an eye to shrapnel in Korea but he thought he got off lightly and I guess he did compared to those lads who came home in boxes or were never recovered. Had another cousin who thought the Cameroons were a scottish clan. Had he done N.S he might have broadened the horizons of his knowledge ! Pluses and minuses to everything but I can’t see what use can be served by any kind of N.S in 2025 and beyond. Ministers doing real hard labour to figure out workable recovery and growth strategies might have some appeal to… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Only drone pilots and hackers need apply…

There is a character in the film ‘The Englishman who went up etc’ called Johnny Shellshock (there was something to that film regardless) this of course was WW1 era but the same symptoms were presenting in Korean vets…

There are a lot of reservist in Sunak’s army of armchair wargamers of the worst kind…and a Napoleon in short trousers…Did Action Man France do a Napoleon !

John Ellis
John Ellis
21 days ago

Very difficult to see this as any sort of vote winner outside of an extraordinarily narrow demographic of elderly right wingers.

Frank
Frank
21 days ago

Good idea!!! Put his Hooray Henry mates in first!!! Let them experience national service before inflicting it on the poor. Experience will then let them know what they are talking about.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Joining the ‘Regiment’ is a kind of national service, a finishing school before a job in the City…

RMA Sandhurst send them to Aber for the inter-pol course, I met a few and a ‘PhD’ heading for the Royal United Services Institute…

Last edited 21 days ago by Mab Meirion
Jeff
Jeff
21 days ago
Reply to  Frank

But that will not happen. His family will not suffer this, probably uni, as will most of his rich donor friends kids. It will not affect them. His party that have failed so badly for youth and care etc. and now forced into working for free to prop up the services the Cons have gutted.

karl
karl
21 days ago

How would that help, except to remove free thinking from the young and shape them ready to die due to political failures. As someone with family who have been in the forces, it controlled their lives. Now in the past it allowed interesting travel, without real threats as the cold war was on. But the reality of the forces now is much harsher.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago
Reply to  karl

We had a game as kids in the fifties called ‘Best for Dying’ and in the sixties we were all in the ‘Cadets’ and the ‘Boy’s Brigade’ had a camp in Tal-y-Bont…

Cannon fodder and lab rats through the generations of abuse from our law makers…

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
21 days ago

I suspect anyone living in a crime ridden area blighted by teenage anti social behaviour would vote for this. Yet another attack on the poor by the tories, national service and war rather than an end to gross inequality and an expansion of the provision of youth clubs, community support, effective policing, youth opportunities etc etc etc.

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
21 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Youth clubs around the UK have been shut, commit to re-opening these before coming up with the barking suggestions.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
21 days ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

Yrs I agree. Tories will no doubt sell it as a chance for foreign travel with Ukraine and Israel top of the list.

Algie
Algie
21 days ago

Will I be able to buy myself a commission?

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
21 days ago
Reply to  Algie

Yes Admiral, Wing Commander or Field Marshall the choice is yours for the right sum.

Rob
Rob
21 days ago

The bring back national service brigade are just nostalgists for the 1940s. ‘We went through two world wars, we can go through Brexit’. An era that they probably didn’t even live through, and those that did would never want to go through it again. It was necessary to have it then, and it would be necessary if we were in a position that Ukraine are in now, but we are not. National Service should only be used in extreme circumstances. This is a civil liberties issue, no democracy should ever force people to sign up for something they don’t want… Read more »

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
21 days ago

It is a Gimmick but if it was to Happen send the Brats of the Rich not 18 year olds from working class its a Barmy idea from a Barmy P M of a political party of FRUITCAKES

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
21 days ago

Hey teenagers! Which one of these would you choose? The chance to vote at aged 16 & 17 OR face the prospect at 18 of compulsory national service which will involve having to give up some weekends being forced to do unpaid work like the community service sentences handed out to some convicted criminals and then by creeping implementation be forced to do military service knowing that if you refuse, there will be some kind of penalty/punishment which could well include imprisonment. Take your choice.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
21 days ago

What a great way for Sunak to ensure an eighteen year olds vote for them, well done. Then there’s the cost of this useless policy, wouldn’t it be better spent on trying to reduce NHS waiting times or supplying schools with more teachers? No wonder the Tories are doomed!

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
20 days ago

The “problems” the tories will solve, with this policy, have been caused by the tories in the first place with the deliberate policy choices they have imposed on the country from westminster!

I just wish the tories would foxtrot oscar on a permanent basis!

Riki
Riki
20 days ago

That’s it Britons of Wales, go and fight for a flag that represents England and Scotland! Two Foreign Nations!!!

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