How the Left responded to the Tory National Service scheme

'It is striking just how removed this Conservative government is from the priorities of young people today'

Rishi Sunak

The Conservative Party have announced a plan to make 18-year-olds take part in military or non-military national service, if the party wins at the general election. 

18-year-olds would have the choice to either join the military for a year or do community service one weekend per month under the compulsory scheme. 

Rishi Sunak claimed it would promote a “shared sense of purpose among our young people”, as well as a “renewed sense of pride in our country”, while James Cleverly said it would get young people out of their “bubble”.

But the proposal has been widely panned, both on the left and the right, here are some reactions. 

Labour has mocked the Tories over the head-line grabbing plan, calling it a “gimmick” as Keir Starmer said it was a “teenage Dad’s Army, paid for by cancelling levelling up funding”.

Green Party Co-Leader Carla Denyer blasted the policy as “removed from reality” and said it is “not what our military needs and certainly isn’t what our young people need”.

Denyer said: “What young people tell us they need is access to the housing market, to higher education that doesn’t plunge them into debt, and to meaningful jobs that pay well. Not military conscription. 

“It is striking just how removed this Conservative government is from the priorities of young people today.”

Liberal Democrat Defence spokesperson Richard Foord MP responded to the plan: “As Suella Braverman once said, when you’re in a hole, keep digging.”

SNP candidate for Gordon and Buchan, Richard Thomson MP also slammed it, as he accused the Tories of wishing to take young people “back to the 1950s” , after already “destroying the hopes and aspirations of a generation of young people.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “The national service we need from our young people is to vote for change on 4th July.”

Whilst Commentator Owen Jones wrote on X: “Young people sacrificed their freedom to protect the lives of older Britons from an illness which overwhelmingly posed no fatal risk to them.

“Meanwhile, the Tories trying to impose ‘National Service’ were partying until they were vomiting down the walls of No. 10.”

Pacifists in Britain have pledged to resist national service by refusing to join or in any way support the military if the scheme is implemented. Members of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) accused the government of attempting to introduce “conscription by stealth” and said the scheme would be “met with a wave of resistance from young people”.

Geoff Tibbs from the PPU said: “Sunak’s announcement signals a dangerous shift in politics. Conscription has quickly turned from a distant historical memory into a very real possibility, which we need to resist at every turn.”

Even within the Tory ranks it has received a backlash, as Government minister Steve Baker said the policy had been sprung on candidates, and was dreamed up by advisers. While Defence Minister Andrew Murrison raised concern the plan would “damage morale” in the military.

(Image credit: Simon Walker / Number 10)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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