UK polls: Rishi Sunak announces proposal of new National Service model for 18-year-olds

Youth will get the choice of a full-time military placement for 12 months or a scheme to volunteer for one weekend a month for a year, said British PM Rishi Sunak

Livemint
Updated26 May 2024
British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak.
British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak.(via REUTERS)

British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak on Sunday said his party will introduce a new National Service model for youth if it comes back to power after the July 4 polls.

As per the proposal, the 18-year-olds would get the choice of a full-time military placement for one year or a scheme to volunteer for one weekend a month for a year.

“We have so much to be proud of in Britain but one of the problems in our society is that we have generations of young people who don’t have the opportunities they deserve,” said Sunak in an election campaign video.

ALSO READ: Labour’s Starmer Pitches for Scottish Votes on Path to UK Power

“Britain today faces a future that is more dangerous and more divided. There’s no doubt how democratic values are under threat; that is why we will introduce a bold new model of National Service for 18 year olds to be spent either in a competitive full-time military commission over 12 months or with one weekend per month volunteering in roles within the community, like delivering prescriptions and food to infirm people or in search and rescue,” he added.

The National Service proposal would be funded by cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, and by diverting money from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, said the Conservative Party.

The major election pledge announcement by Sunak came amid a mass exodus of senior members of the British Parliament from the Conservative Party.

Additionally, interior minister James Cleverly said that there would be no criminal sanctions for skipping mandatory National Service but that people will be compelled to do it.

On Saturday, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer had said that he was in favour of allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

ALSO READ: Royal family cancels public engagements as UK PM Rishi Sunak calls election

In opinion polls, Conservatives are lagging Labour by a wide margin.

Mass exodus

The number of Conservative MPs to not contest re-election in July has risen to 78.

British cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom had also said that they will not seek re-election.

The Conservative MPs had resigned amid strong challenges to incumbent Tories in constituencies around the country.

In a letter, Leadsom had said: “After careful reflection, I have decided not to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming election.”

While Gove said that he knew “the toll office can take, as do those closest to me…No one in politics is a conscript. We are volunteers who willingly choose our fate. And the chance to serve is wonderful. But there comes a moment when you know that it is time to leave. That a new generation should lead."

Former British prime minister Theresa May and former defence minister Ben Wallace are among the MPs stepping away from the frontline politics.

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