'If you sent me to the frontlines, I will sell this country out for half a Twix': Young people react to national service plan

Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak at a community breakfast, in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, northeastern England, on May 25, 2024, during a party campaign event in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4.
-Credit: (Image: OLI SCARFF/POOL/AFP via Getty Images))

Rishi Sunak recently announced that 18-year-olds would be forced to carry out a form of national service if the Tories are voted back in at the July 4 general election. The Prime Minister has claimed that it would help unite society in an "increasingly uncertain world" and provide a "shared sense of purpose."

But not everyone is convinced.

There has been a mixed reaction from young people living in Wales and the rest of the UK, with some people in favour, some confident it is a bad idea and others certain that it will never happen. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter.

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If Sunak's plans went ahead, young people would either be able to do a full-time placement in the armed forces for 12 months or one weekend a month for a year “volunteering,” in their community.

TikTok user and Plaid Cymru candidate for Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney, Niamh Salkeld, aged 25, shared a video expressing her thoughts on the news. She noted: "In those fourteen years that the Tories have been in power, I personally have never felt that any true policy has ever benefitted young people. I just feel like we're not a priority. We've never been in mind, or at the forefront of any political decisions that the Tories have made.

"All I've known is that I can't afford to buy a house. I'm in crippling debt. I can't afford basic essentials even though I'm on, what would be considered a decent wage. I'm still struggling to get by each month, and I've been thrown into this world of post-Brexit. Something that I wasn't even old enough to vote in."

Niamh continued: "Now I've seen this policy being brought forward which will impact, once again, younger people and younger generations. I think it's just another perfect example of how the Tories are not only so out of touch but just don't understand young people, don't want to understand young people and don't want to work for us or benefit us in any way possible."

Her video, like others discussing the idea sparked a mixed reaction from young people online. One person commented: "I genuinely think it’s not that bad of an idea. Everyone thinks it’s compulsory military but it’s volunteering once a month which will teach valuable life lessons and good job experience."

But someone else added: "As a young teen do the Tories want to purposefully make themselves unappealing to us?" Join our WhatsApp news community here for the latest breaking news.

If the proposed National Service plans went ahead, it would affect most 18-year-olds living in the UK, including Wales, although some people are wishing it wouldn't. A user on X, formerly known as Twitter, wrote: "Rishi Sunak has announced if he is elected to be prime minister at the next general election on July 3rd that he will bring back National Service for 18-year-olds, could you let us know if you are planning on doing the same thing here in Wales, please don’t."

A university student also posted on X airing their views, arguing that the plans were simply unlikely to be carried out. They said: "It won't happen (and neither will a Tory government from July 5th) but how is it going to be funded then? We've already got the issue of the amount of 18-year-olds in this country being over 10 times the amount of active serving military personnel, how is any of this working?"

But, contrary to some people's views, senior Welsh Conservative Faye Jones spoke on Radio Wales Breakfast, claiming she knew "loads of young people" who would be keen to take part in the scheme. She said: "I have got no issue whatsoever with ensuring that young people across Wales have the life chances that they need.

"I think investing in them, providing them with opportunities, ways to volunteer or serve their military, as so many people want to do, I think that’s something that everyone across Wales will welcome. I know loads of young people who like to play their part."

The Tory scheme is proposed to be in place by 2029-30. That means the first generation of teenagers to carry out national service since 1960 will currently be aged around 13. According to population estimates, there will be about 830,000 18-year-olds in 2029 who would be compelled to join the military or carry out voluntary work. You can see how many 18-year-olds could be required to carry out national service where you live using our interactive map.

But as well as talking about some of the serious issues or benefits the scheme could have, lots of people from Generation Z, who are known for their unique sense of humour, have also taken to TikTok and other media platforms to share their candid reactions to the recent political developments.

TikToker @officialasb posted a video sharing some information and his reaction to the concept, which has been viewed over 140,000 times. He said: "Well, listen to me, Mr Sunak. Thank you, but no thank you. The thing with this is it doesn't matter if you're a male or female, whatever gender you are right - you have to do this.

They added: "You might be thinking, ah, well surely I can just say no - they can't force me to do it. Yes they can. That's exactly what they can do. Basically if you refuse and don't do one of these things, you could be potentially facing like non-criminal sanctions."

Another TikToker amused her followers with her opinion on the new proposals. Chanté Joseph, known on the platform as @chantayyjayy said: "I just find all this stuff about trying to get young people to join the army so funny because this country treats its young people so badly. Like, if you ever sent me to the frontlines, I will sell this country out for half a Twix."

You can tell us what life is like for you if you are a young person living in Wales right now by contacting: bethany.gavaghan@reachplc.com