UK Considers Bringing Back Mandatory Military Service

( – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has proposed bringing back compulsory military service. The shock announcement calls for all 18-year-olds to either spend time in the military or volunteer with public services. However, many are saying it’s more of a desperate campaign stunt than a serious policy.

The last conscript soldiers left the British Army in 1963, and since then the country has had an all-volunteer military. That could be about to change, though. On May 25, Sunak revealed a new plan to bring back National Service, as conscription was known in the UK between 1949 and 1963. Under the system he’s proposing, all 18-year-olds would have to either apply for a one-year placement in the British military or do volunteer work one weekend a month in a public service like law enforcement or the National Health Service. Sunak says restarting National Service would create a “renewed sense of pride in our country.”

Why did Sunak suddenly announce this policy now, though? A cynic might think it’s because having announced on May 22 that there would be a general election on July 4, he’s realized that his catastrophic poll numbers are showing no sign of improving. The latest polls show that 44% of Britons plan to vote for the opposition Labour Party, with just 19% backing Sunak’s centrist Conservatives.

Even worse, the (actually conservative) Reform UK party has seen a rapid surge of votes since Nigel Farage took over as leader on June 3, and now has 17% support — up from 12% before Farage announced he was running for parliament. Suddenly under pressure from the right as well as the left, Sunak is scrambling for policies that might appeal to the Conservatives’ traditional center-right voters. But does he really believe in this policy? Maybe not.

The last time Sunak mentioned National Service was in January when Army Chief General Sir Patrick Saunders warned Britain might need conscription to fight a war against an aggressive Russia. Sunak immediately shut the general down, saying there were “no plans” to move away from an all-volunteer military.

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