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Any National Service Should be Voluntary

It’s almost certain that Rishi Sunak will leave office on the 4th July 2024 which would make him the 3rd shortest-serving PM since the end of WW2. You’d think with his parties looming defeat that the Conservatives would be doing everything they can to appease voters, but you’d be very wrong.

Instead, Rishi has decided to obliterate his chances of any support from the younger generation by announcing a return of the hated national service scheme after saying he wouldn’t. Perhaps Sunak is purposefully coming up with vote-losing ideas so when he loses his seat in the next election he can fly off to California.

However, this scheme is not about forcing people to join the military, despite what some media outlets are claiming, but can be thought of as a form of forced weekend volunteering once a month. The actual prospect of national service is nowhere near as bad as I thought. In a press statement announcing this plan, Sunak said that the UK has “generations of young people who have not had the opportunities they deserve.” He isn't wrong but, you can't not acknowledge the irony of this statement, as it is his party that is responsible for those4 failings in the last 14 years.

What was wrong in the statement came later: “your family and our country are all at risk if Labour win.” This is just fear-mongering and relying on spreading fear to win an election which is appalling in a democratic state.  Plus, it is also problematic to say that Labour puts the country at risk when considering that spending cuts to the military by the Conservative’s have seen the British Army reduced in size from 100,000 in 2010 to only 73,000 as of January 2024 and a former PM, Boris Johnson, was a walking security risk getting drunk with former-KGB spies and Putin-allies without his security detail and leaving a notebook full of state secrets lying around.

Now, it is not all negative. Will Kingston-Cox made some very good points in his recent article and I do agree with his arguments. Providing more young people with opportunities is a good thing and a voluntary form of national service could help. People should retain choice. If they want to participate in these kinds of schemes, then they can. Addtionally, it could be extended to young offenders as a form of rehabilitation. There are obvious benefits which would be mitigated by forcing young people to participate.

A lot of teenagers and young adults are suffering from a lack of purpose, and some, unfortunately, turn to far-right extremism as these groups prey on social isolation. A voluntary form of national service could be used to provide work experience, military and non-military training, and support a wide range of positive causes (cleaning national parks, helping at animal shelters, etc.). It would certainly bring about some national cohesion and breakdown social barriers. However, the military focus is limiting and is unwelcome across much of the country. If a scheme were introduced to provide services to communities and those services were provided by young people who are encourgaed to volunteer, that would really make a difference. What does a military focus achieve for the country at large other than socialisation?

National service, of any kind, should not be compulsory, especially for those in work or higher education, nor should it be military-orientated. Instead, the purpose of any such scheme should be to build and create a better society.

Image: Malindine E G (Capt), War Office official photographer


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