Rishi Sunak plots bonkers return of National Service for over-18s

Life as a young person under the Tories would mean “maths until 18 then off to war”, a Labour source said – as Rishi Sunak plots the return of mandatory national service.

Under bonkers plans being drawn up by the Tories, all 18-year-olds would be forced to choose between joining the military full time for a year or volunteering for jobs like building flood defences one weekend a month. Other voluntary roles would include working for the NHS, fire service or police, the Tories said.

The rules would take effect from September 2025 – and would cost an eye-watering £2.5 billion a year. A Royal Commission would hammer out the details. Mr Sunak, who has never served in the armed forces, believes reviving compulsory service would help bring back the “national spirit” that emerged during the pandemic.

Don’t tell him, Rishi

A Labour Party spokesperson, responding to the Conservatives’ plan to bring back National Service, said: “This is another desperate £2.5 billion unfunded commitment from a Tory Party which already crashed the economy, sending mortgages rocketing, and now they’re spoiling for more.

“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.

“Britain has had enough of the Conservatives, who are bankrupt of ideas, and have no plans to end 14 years of chaos. It’s time to turn the page and rebuild Britain with Labour.”

Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of Best for Britain and founder of said, “For 14 years this Government has failed young people, removing their freedom of movement, hiking tuition fees and making homeownership a distant fantasy. Now they have the gall to impose mandatory national service in a desperate effort to bolster support from those who never had to serve themselves.

“The Tories have no credibility on defence having slashed the size of our armed forces by more than 40,000 troops. Young and old alike must see through them and vote tactically for change in this election.”

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer confirmed Labour would extend the vote to 16 year olds – meaning teenagers could, in future, vote against any such plan to enforce military service. The party leader said anyone old enough to work should be allowed to “have a say” in how their taxes are spent.

Asked on the campaign trail in Staffordshire whether Labour would lower the voting age, Sir Keir said: “Yes, I want to see both 16 and 17-year-olds. If you can work, if you can pay tax, if you can serve in your armed forces, then you ought to be able to vote.”

Meanwhile Deputy Leader Angela Rayner published the party’s package of workers rights – newly branded as “Labour’s plan to make work pay”.

The deal includes a ban on zero hour contracts and ‘fire and rehire’ tactics, and stronger employment rights from day one of a new job.

Writing in this newspaper, Ms Rayner said: “Labour’s New Deal will ensure more people stay in work, make work more family-friendly and improve living standards, putting more money in working people’s pockets. Only Labour can make Britain work for working people – and we have a plan to deliver it.”