Young people in London ‘not a fan’ of Rishi Sunak’s National Service plan

Young people in London have shared their views on Rishi Sunak's plan to introduce mandatory 12-month national service for 18-year-olds if the Conservatives are re-elected on July 4.

Mandatory national service hasn't been in place in the UK since 1960. However, Sunak has argued that reinstating compulsory service will "create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and renew their sense of pride in our country."

Young people in Walthamstow who MyLondon spoke to said they disagreed with the plan. Matt, a 20-year-old who was helping his grandmother with her shopping, said, "I think the Government has completely blown their chances with the younger generation."

READ MORE: National Service map shows how many teens could get called up in your area

He added: “I’m definitely not a fan, I think it's a ridiculous idea. I don't know why he's decided to announce that as if it's going to help his chances in the general election… Maybe he's trying to appeal to an older generation, who might like the idea of the younger generations having a sense of nationalism. But I'm so not into that.”

The Government has said that those with jobs or planning to attend university will not be exempt and will "have to fit National Service around their lives." Similarly, taking a gap year will not qualify as a reason for exemption and there will be no option to opt out or defer.

Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, speaks at a Conservative Party election campaign event in London
Rishi Sunak launched his General Election campaign at the ExCel in London after announcing that polling would take place on July 4 -Credit:Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Other people were unhappy that national service would delay their entry into the workforce. Ella, who was on her way to her birthday celebrations, said: “I don't really agree with it because it would be taking people out of jobs. The Government complains that there's not enough people working, but by bringing in this, you're taking them out of their jobs, basically.”

Mia, a student, added: “The plans are a bit silly because after we all turn 18, we obviously have to go to university and continue our careers. It's kind of pointless to pause that. If he does want to make military service mandatory, we should be able to postpone it a bit.”

The service would consist of 12 months of military training in the armed forces or community volunteering. The latter would require teenagers to spend one weekend a month working with organisations such as the police, fire service, NHS, and charities that care for older people.

Some said that the service should be optional because individuals should be mentally prepared to handle potential trauma. A 17-year-old who we spoke to, who asked not to be named, said: "After 18, you've just finished your A-levels, and you just want to go into university. It's just pointless to postpone that, it should be a choice. Military service can be traumatic, which can be quite scary for someone so young."

The plan has drawn widespread criticism. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described it as "a sort of teenage Dad's Army," while his shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall labelled the policy as "yet another unfunded spending commitment."

Young people agree that the Government should prioritise other pressing issues facing the country. Matt said: "They should really focus on improving education, infrastructure, and other important areas. Me and all my friends won't be voting Tory. That's all I'm gonna say."

Speaking about the plans, Mr Sunak told workers at a factory in Milton Keynes on Thursday (May 30): “It will become a new rite of passage that everyone goes through and bring us closer together.

It could help develop "a greater sense of pride in what we stand for and what we are as a country”, he added.

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