July 13, 2024

Rishi Sunak claims compulsory national service would revive the “national spirit”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to re-introduce mandatory national service if the Conservative Party remains in power after the general election, set for July, British media reported on Sunday.

Under the scheme, which is expected to cost around £2.5 billion ($3.19 billion) per year, all 18-year-olds would be required to either join the military full-time or volunteer one weekend per month, with community organizations such as the police or National Health Service (NHS).

Sunak argued that compulsory service would help revive the “national spirit” and “provide life-changing opportunities for our young people,” according to manifesto pledges published by British media on Sunday.

“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,” Sunak explained, as quoted by the BBC.

“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,” the prime minister continued, arguing that the move would provide young people with “life-changing opportunities” to learn “real world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country.”

“As a father, I look forward to my own two daughters doing their National Service: I think they will find it a rewarding experience,” the politician claimed.

According to the plan, if re-elected, the Conservative Party will establish a Royal Commission to finalize a “National Service Program” and launch the pilot in September next year.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the plan to reintroduce national service was drawn up in secret, with only Sunak’s closest advisers privy to the details. In the 40-page document, advisers argued that expanding the Armed Forces is necessary in the face of “the growing international threats posed by countries such as Russia and China.”

The announcement has been slammed by the opposition, who accused the Conservatives of crashing the British economy and cutting troop numbers.

“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,” a Labour Party spokesperson told the BBC.

“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,” Liberal Democrat defense spokesperson Richard Foord said.

Throughout its 364-year history, the British Army has mostly been an all-volunteer force, but conscription was introduced during WWI and WWII with the National Service ending in 1960. In recent decades, the British Armed Forces have seen significant cuts, with the number of troops falling by more than a quarter between 2010 and 2024.

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