UK Conservatives Propose Mandatory National Service for 18-Year-Olds if Elected.

If the governing Conservative Party wins the national election on July 4, all 18-year-olds in Britain will be required to perform a year of mandatory military or civilian national service, the party announced Sunday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to reintroduce a form of national service for the first time in over 60 years, aiming to revitalise his election campaign after a sluggish start. Historically, the UK implemented military conscription during World War II and maintained 18 months of mandatory military service for men from 1947 to 1960. Since then, the country has relied on an all-volunteer military force, which has gradually decreased in size.

Under the new proposal, a small fraction of 18-year-olds—approximately 30,000 out of an estimated 700,000—would spend 12 months in the military, serving in roles such as logistics or cyber defence. The majority would engage in monthly volunteer work with charities, community groups, hospitals, police, or fire services.

Sunak emphasized that the program would foster “a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country.” However, the exact mechanism for enforcing this compulsory service remains unclear. Home Secretary James Cleverly assured that no one would be compelled to join the military.

Cleverly clarified that the primary objective of the new plan is to create “a society where people mix with others from different communities, backgrounds, religions, and income levels.” The Conservatives estimate the national service plan will cost £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) annually, funded in part by reallocating £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, established in 2022 to revitalize deprived communities.

The Labour Party criticized the proposal as a “desperate £2.5 billion unfunded commitment” from a party “bankrupt of ideas.” Former Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson derided the plan as “compulsory volunteering” and predicted it would never be implemented.

UK elections are required every five years, with the prime minister having discretion over the exact timing within that period. Sunak, 44, surprised many, including his own party members, by announcing the election date as July 4. The Conservatives, in power for 14 years, are lagging behind the opposition Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, in opinion polls and are struggling against a widespread desire for change.

Sunak’s election announcement, made outside 10 Downing Street, was marred by heavy rain and protesters playing a Labour campaign song. One of his initial campaign stops was at the Belfast shipyard where the Titanic was built—an irony eagerly highlighted by critics.

Voters will elect lawmakers to all 650 seats in the House of Commons. The leader of the party securing a majority, either alone or in coalition, will become prime minister.


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One comment

  • Ralph Schwer May 28, 2024   Reply →

    Sounds like a dead easy way to lose all the votes of young people. [From an ex-nasho who did two tours to Vietnam and eight years in the army]

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