Sunak's National Service plan compared to scene from 80s sitcom

YES MINISTER, from left; Nigel Hawthorne, Paul Eddington, Diana Hoddinott, Derek Fowlds, 1980-1984, © BBC/courtesy Everett
Rishi Sunak's proposal of mandatory national service has been compared to an episode of Yes, Prime Minister. (BBC)

Rishi Sunak's proposal to reintroduce mandatory national service, should the Tory party win the general election on 4 July, has led to comparisons to 1980s sitcom Yes, Prime Minister.

A resurfaced scene from the BBC comedy series showed how the way in which questions are asked in a survey — and the order in which it is done — can push people to share their support of National Service. This scene was resurrected as a meme shortly after the prime minister's plans emerged to show how it was possible for the Tory government to suggest such a thing now.

The policy will make 18-year-olds would have to carry out mandatory service, with young people being given the choice of a full-time placement in the Armed Forces or alternatively to volunteer one weekend per month in their community. The prime minister argued that the police will give teens a "sense of purpose" and would help unite society in an "increasingly uncertain world".

Following this announcement, many members of the public used scenes from Yes, Prime Minister (the sequel to Yes Minister) to poke fun at the Conservative party's policies, with one in particular being compared to the announcement made about national service.

Watch: Yes, Prime Minister

In the clip, Nigel Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey Appleby reflected on the notion of leading questions, and how this strategy can be used to persuade a member of the public to vote a certain way. In the instance where the government would want to use suggestion to ensure people are in favour of national service, questions like "are you worried about the number of young people without jobs" will be used.

Following this up with questions about rising crime amongst teens, a lack of discipline in school and the notion that teens should obey authority and leadership leads to people arguing they'd be in favour of national service.

On the flip side, the character showed that if you ask people about if they're worried about the danger of war, increased armament, and question whether it's wrong to force young people to take up arms then the answer to the question of if they oppose national service would be answered in the affirmative. This basically implies that a person can be led to answer a certain way just by asking them things in a positive or negative manner.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 26: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty attend a Conservative general election campaign event in Stanmore, on May 26, 2024 in London, England. Rishi Sunak has pledged to bring back Mandatory National Service for 18-year-olds if the Conservatives win the next election. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty are out on the Conservative general election campaign. (Chris J Ratcliffe - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

One person discussed how this scene, while written for comedic purposes, actually works as they shared an old survey using the same questions and rendering the exact results the sitcom predicted.

Sharing the questions on X, the user wrote: "The national service nonsense does give me the opportunity to tweet one of my favourite recent bits of polling when Ipsos actually ran the famous"Yes Minister questions as a randomised experiment, and showed that it worked."

YES, MINISTER, Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne, Derek Fowlds, 1980-84, © BBC/courtesy Everett Collection
In the clip from Yes, Prime Minister Nigel Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey Appleby (centre) reflected on the notion of leading questions, and how it can be used on the public. (BBC)

Other users took the opportunity to poke fun at the policy, with one person sharing the same clip and writing: "I swear they’ve been watch Yes Minister to garner ideas…this clip with Sir Humphrey & Bernard discussing National Service…."

Another user joked: "Instead of National service , let’s make watching and studying Yes minister compulsory."

One person shared the same clip and wrote: "So the Conservatives are proposing to bring back national service. Have they been studying the opinion polls?"