Rishi Sunak Pitches Return of National Service in First Major General Election Pledge

LOSSIEMOUTH, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 18: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to soldiers
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to reintroduce National Service for 18-year-olds in Britain in an opening salvo for the upcoming general election on July 4th.

In his first major policy pledge to the public of the general election campaign, Sunak said on Sunday that he would bring back National Service in order to create a “renewed sense of pride” in the country.

Under the £2.5 billion plan, 18-year-olds would be expected to perform at least one year of service to the nation, either through a 12-month placement within the armed or in cyber defence, or commit to volunteering one weekend per month for a year with organisations such as the National Health Service, the fire service, the police, or charities focussed on helping isolated elderly people.

“This is a great ­country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve — and there are forces trying to divide our society in this uncertain world,” Sunak said per The Sun.

“I have a clear plan to address this and secure our future. I will bring in a new ­version of National Service to create a shared sense of ­purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country.”

National Service was first introduced in the UK in 1949 when healthy men between the ages of 17 and 21 were mandated to serve for at least 18 months in the armed forces and remain on the reserve list for four years.

Despite being intended largely as a form of peacetime conscription, men in the National Service took part in military campaigns in Cyprus, Kenya, Korea, and Malaya before the programme was officially ended in 1960.

The pitch for a reintroduction of National Service comes in the wake of top military figures in Britain warning about the poor state of the nation’s armed forces and of the need for more soldiers should the United Kingdom enter into war with a major military power such as Russia.

For example, earlier this year, the head of the Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders suggested that the country may need to draft a “citizen army” to protect itself.

The numbers in the ranks of the armed services have steadily declined under Conservative rule, with just 76,950 soldiers enlisted in the Army last year compared to 109,600 in 2000. During the same time period, the Royal Navy ranks declined from 42,800 to 32,590 and the Royal Air Force fell from 54,600 to 31,940.

The Conservative government said that the National Service plan announced by Sunak would cost around £2.5 billion per year by 2029/30. They said that it would be funded by repurposing money from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and a crackdown on tax evaders, Sky News reports.

Responding to the announcement, Brexit leader and honorary president of the Reform UK party, Nigel Farage said: “Rishi Sunak is a follower and not a leader. He has been told to do this National Service policy by a focus group of Reform voters. Everyone knows he’d never implement it.”

Labour was also critical of the plan, with a spokesman saying: “This is not a plan – it’s a review which could cost billions and is only needed because the Tories hollowed out the Armed Forces to their smallest size since Napoleon.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on X: or e-mail to: kzindulka@breitbart.com


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.