UK Prime Minister Unveils A Bold Proposal To Require 18-Year-Olds To Serve In The Military For 12 Months

UK Prime Minister Unveils A Bold Proposal To Require 18-Year-Olds To Serve In The Military For 12 Months

The Conservative Party announced on Sunday that if they win the July 4 national election, all 18-year-olds in Britain will be required to complete a year of mandatory military or civilian national service.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to reintroduce a form of national service for the first time in over 60 years, aiming to invigorate his election campaign after a slow start.

During World War II, the U.K. introduced military conscription for men and some women, and mandated 18 months of military service for men from 1947 to 1960. Since then, Britain has maintained an all-volunteer military which has gradually reduced in size.

Under the proposed plan, a small minority of 18-year-olds — around 30,000 out of an estimated 700,000 — would serve 12 months in the military, focusing on roles such as logistics or cyber defense. The majority would spend one weekend per month working with charities, community groups, hospitals, police, or fire services.

The method of enforcing this mandatory service remains unclear. Home Secretary James Cleverly clarified on Sunday that no one would be compelled to serve in the military.

Cleverly emphasized that the primary aim of the plan was not to bolster the military but to foster “a society where people mix with others from different communities, backgrounds, religions, and income levels.”

The Conservatives estimated the annual cost of the national service plan to be £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion), partly funded by reallocating £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) from the U.K. Shared Prosperity Fund established in 2022 to regenerate impoverished communities.

The Labour Party criticized the national service announcement as a “desperate £2.5 billion unfunded commitment” from a party “lacking in ideas.” Former Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson dismissed the Tory plan as “compulsory volunteering” and predicted that “it’ll never happen.”

In the United Kingdom, elections must be held at least every five years. Sunak, 44, had until December to set the date, but surprised many — including members of his own party — by announcing on Wednesday that the election would be held on July 4. After 14 years in power, the Conservatives are trailing the opposition Labour Party led by Keir Starmer in opinion polls and are attempting to overcome a widespread desire for change among voters.

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