'Nah, I'm not doing that': Manchester's young people people speak out about national service plans

Manchester student Maisie Adams speaks to the MEN
-Credit: (Image: MEN)

It is officially election season, which means political parties will be announcing new policies in their bid to win the public’s vote. Despite the general election still over a month away on July 4, the Conservative Party have already put a marker down by announcing plans to introduce national service for 18-year-olds should they remain in power.

Last week, Rishi Sunak announced that young people 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”.

The Prime Minister said the policy would help unite society in an “increasingly uncertain world” and give young people a “shared sense of purpose”. The finer details haven't been drawn up just yet, but the Tories say volunteering could include helping local fire, police and NHS services as well as charities tackling loneliness and supporting elderly, isolated people.

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But it is fair to say the teenagers and young people of Greater Manchester have been more than a bit surprised at the proposals. Ife Adebanjo, 18 and a first time voter, was sceptical about the whole thing, saying: “I get it, I know what he’s trying to do, but what if someone has different plans?

“I don’t think people should be forced into it, I think it should be the equivalent of like volunteering at a charity, if you want to do it, you should.

“Making it mandatory makes me not want to do it. Even the volunteering option, what If you need a steady income and but you have to volunteer every other weekend? That’s two days away from work.”

Having spent time in the government's National Citizen Service, 26-year-old data analyst, Chuck Saenborisut, said he knows about all the positives it can have on young people. "It does help kids who don't have much going on," he told the Manchester Evening News.

"It helps them get into a routine and get to know different things. I did it in 2015 when I was 17, it was a good thing. I've learned quite a lot, did a lot of charity stuff, did a week away, having fun and bonding with the teams.

Chuck Saenborisut
Chuck Saenborisut already has experience with National Service and enjoyed it -Credit:MEN

"I saw the program and they were telling parents 'your kids could go away for four weeks', it was £40. It was a no-brainer, I think my parents wanted to get rid of me for four weeks too, I thought it was quite good.

"It has impacted me in certain ways. I won't say from that experience it made me who I am now, but I felt quite confident coming out of it. Learning how to be part of a community was quite helpful.

"Do I think it should be compulsory? I think people should have freedom and it shouldn't be restricted to that particular group."

Ali Javed, 17, will just miss out on having a say in this year’s election. However, the student from Bury says he has already made his mind up about National Service and the Tories.

“Nah, I’m not doing that," he said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on his campaign trail
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on his campaign trail -Credit:Getty Images

"It’s something I’m not up for. He didn’t ask me if I wanted to do it or not, so that’s why I don’t want to do it. They say it’ll give kids something to do, but I’m working right now. I’ve got something to do.

"They should give us a choice; I know there is the volunteering, but what if you don’t want to do that either?."

On who would be his choice if he did have the chance to vote this year, he said: “I wouldn’t vote for Rishi, anyone but him.

“I just don’t like him, I’m not a fan. I don’t like the way he handles things."

21-year-old student, Maisie Adams, was also totally against the idea. She said: "I think it's a bit of a joke and I don't think many young people are going to stand for it.

"I wouldn't like to see my brother go, he's about to turn 17 so he would be affected by it. I think they've written off their young supporters by doing this."

Maisie Adams
Maisie Adams says the Tory party have alienated younger voters with the policy -Credit:MEN

While 36-year-old teacher, Rachel Woolman, could see its merits, she said that as a parent of two young boys, the thought of national service for them was ‘terrifying’.

“I can see it from both sides, from a parental point of view I find it terrifying," she explained.

"But equally, you have no idea what’s going to happen. People keep talking about war starting now, close to home.

"But then I think there’s some potential to give the youth today some structure. I’m a teacher, so I think a lot of children are lost and a lot of children find authority quite alien now.

"So there is part of me that thinks it could be a good thing in some ways, but, I still don’t like the idea of it. I think just volunteering would be better, I think that would make more sense.”

Matthew Yates with his 12-year-old son Zeb
Matthew Yates with his 12-year-old son Zeb -Credit:MEN

Father of four, Matthew Yates, thinks the Tories don't have the conviction to pull through with the policy. He told the M.E.N.: “I don’t think it’ll happen to be honest. If he gets into power, he won’t go through with it.

“It’s just to grab votes from the older generation. It’ll become like anything else with our class system.

"Certain kids would go and others will find a way out of it. It’s not something I would enrol my son into, I’m a big lover of peace.

"It could be a good thing if it was done right, but it’s got to be done right. You’re just sort of forcing kids into it, if it was an option, you might get a few kids signing up for a year, but in this day and age it would never happen.”