Rishi Sunak plans to revive ‘national service’ & the young royals will not be exempt

In my lifetime, various American politicians have suggested a “national service” scheme for young people, often some kind of “mandatory” or volunteer military service or community service. Those schemes rarely go anywhere, although programs like the Peace Corps are still highly competitive (and those successful programs should probably just be expanded). Well, now Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is running for reelection by introducing a “national service” scheme for young British people. It probably won’t go anywhere – especially since the Tories will likely face a historic loss in the general election on the 4th of July – but if Sunak’s scheme goes through, it means that young royals would also have to “serve” in the scheme.

Young royals will have to spend a year in the military or volunteer in the community under Conservative plans to revive National Service. Rishi Sunak made the first major policy announcement of the general election campaign on Sunday, vowing to bring back National Service for 18-year-olds. He said this would entail either a year on a military placement or spending one weekend of each month volunteering.

More details have now emerged about the scheme, including that there will be very limited exemptions from participation. The Conservative Party told The Telegraph that this included royal children being expected to take part. The Prince and Princess of Wales have three children, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 9, and Prince Louis, 6.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie also have young children who would be eligible to take part once they reach 18 as well as Prince Edward’s son, the Earl of Wessex, who is 16.

The Royal family has a long history of serving in the military. Prince William attended Sandhurst before spending seven-and-a-half years in full-time military service.

The Tories have also revealed how they plan to encourage teenagers to apply for the military scheme, including participants being potentially favoured when applying for jobs. One option that has been suggested is the introduction of fast-tracked routes into graduate schemes and the civil service for those who have taken part. Another proposal is that employers are encouraged to consider Armed Forces recruits during the hiring process and that participants are given the opportunity to highlight their military experience on their Ucas applications for university and apprenticeships. There will be 30,000 places on the 12-month military scheme each year, and it is hoped that it will be highly competitive.

[From The Telegraph]

Here in America, there are several programs which help employers prioritize military and former military job candidates. It’s sort of a remnant from how poorly veterans were treated post-Vietnam, there was a larger movement to help veterans get jobs, etc. I guess Britain doesn’t have any of that? As for the royal kids ending up in this national service scheme… the Windsors will argue that their lives are dedicated to service anyway, that’s why they live in palaces and castles, because they’re performing a “service” to the British people. Anyway, yeah, none of this is going to happen.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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79 Responses to “Rishi Sunak plans to revive ‘national service’ & the young royals will not be exempt”

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  1. Joyful Liluri says:

    Why is Charlotte dressed in green while the effort was made to dress everyone else in Navy?

    • rosa mwemaid says:

      She’s got navy tights and shoes.

    • Tuesday says:

      And her green coat picks up the green in Louis’s pants. It’s coordinated rather than matchy-matchy.

      • ShazBot says:

        Yeah, and I’d be willing to bet the dress she had on under was like Louis’ pants or similar, tying in both colours.

  2. Harla A Brazen Hussy says:

    When did William spend 7.5 years in “full-time military service”? I recall him spending some time in each of the different branches but I don’t believe it amounted to 7.5 years, or are they counting his time spent in RAF Search and Rescue, which he did to avoid royal service?

    • Couch Potato says:

      I was thinking the same. They’re probably adding in his part time mostly no show time for the RAF Search and Rescue.

    • AMB says:

      I used to work with a freelance guy who billed his hours in .25-hour increments to each job he worked on. So if he spent 5 minutes on one job code, that was .25 hours to that code. The next 5 minutes, different code, another .25 hours. If he spent 5 minutes on a task that was shared between several codes, he billed .25 to each. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there was also an admin job code to which he billed the time it took to compile and submit his billing.

      So, you see, “time” can be such a flexible concept …

      • BeanieBean says:

        🙂 And lawyers are famous for the six-minute hours! But seriously, when has William ever done anything ‘full-time’?

  3. equality says:

    Does he really think that the House of Lords will let such a measure pass?

    • AlpineWitch says:

      Does he think British people will let this pass? 🤣🤣
      Because it’s not the vote winner he thinks it is 🙄

      Also, no royals or aristos will do any compulsory service, Sunak/Tories’s ideas are always and only for the plebs.

  4. Hypocrisy says:

    They really wanted to make sure that 1/2 of the year was added to his falsified full time status didn’t they?

  5. Visa Diva says:

    There’s been a lot of pushback in the UK about this for a !ot of reasons, but one if them is that there will be “exemptions” to service which is a loophole for rich kids yo not serve.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      Aristos will laugh at the very idea. This sounds like something the Tories came up with to sound egalitarian. They’re not. And the royals? Forget about it.

    • Serena says:

      Lol of course exemptions for the rich, I would laugh if I wasn’t so disgusted.

  6. Bettyrose says:

    In the US, national service for educational credits and job training would do so much to bridge the massive and growing socioeconomic chasm. For many many young people the military is the only way out of poverty, but we were at war for 20 years and military service was almost certain deployment to an active war zone. Meanwhile student loans have left two generations in crippling debt and unable to buy homes. National service is such an obvious solution to economic inequality.

    • equality says:

      There are a number of programs in the US for military loan forgiveness. In addition, for civilians there are many programs: PSLF, TLF, IDR, SAVE, Nurse Corps, and AmeriCorps. (And probably more I haven’t heard of.)

      • Bettyrose says:

        @Equality – I’m suggesting service that is an alternative to the military. And Americorps and all the others listed require a college degree, so they are not a path out of poverty. National service for high school graduates who don’t have an easy path to college (the population the military depends on for enlistees) is what I’m advocating. The military has been a solid poverty to middle class option for generations since WWII. Often the only option. But we were at war for 20 years and injury or death in an active war zone was a high risk for those who had no other options.

      • Cmart says:

        @BettyRose – Peace Corps requires a college degree. AmeriCorps does not and can earn money for college or student loan repayment, depending on the program. It’s a good program and should be expanded. Not perfect, but good concept.

      • bettyrose says:

        @Cmart – Thank you for clarifying. I just looked it up. Americorps is a great option for recent high school grads! I’d never even hear of it until I was already a college grad (well, the actual iteration of Americorps didn’t exist when I was in high school).

        Fewer than 40% of American adults have a four year degree, so opportunities to grow intellectually and professionally should not be limited to college. Personally, I still believe in compulsory national service with no exception for rich kids. I think it would contribute to a more informed electorate and less socioeconomically segregated society. But I’d like to see a lot more kids attend a program like Americorps before signing those student loan papers.

    • Talia says:

      When there was National Service in the UK previously, participants *did* get deployed to war zones – and some of them died there. It wasn’t an ‘alternative’ to military service, it *was* military service.

      There will apparently be alternatives to military service in the new scheme but if this ever came in (which hopefully will never happen), I’m not sure how long they would last.

      Also, it would cost billions to set up and the army don’t want it – the modern army requires actual training. They’d barely have the kids trained before their 12 months was up.

      • Bettyrose says:

        @Talia – It seems like sending young people off to war is the default. But the US is a massive geographic region with so many domestic opportunities, national parks, urban community work … we have for profit prisons that require a certain number of inmates, which guides our judicial culture of incarceration, meanwhile it costs the US government significantly more to house an inmate than educate a young person.

      • rosa mwemaid says:

        Sounds just like the Tories.

      • Arpeggi says:

        Yeah, same thing in France. All my great uncles and my granddad were forced to deploy in Algeria and well, they were all traumatized by the things they saw and might have been forced to participate to (which we don’t know as they’ve never talked about it to anyone who weren’t deployed). None of them wanted to go there, most didn’t agree with why France was there to begin with.

        I was glad mandatory service was ended for those born around my brother’s birth year; we have dual citizenship and that would be cause to renounce. I have some Israeli friends who chose jail over service, an Iranian friend basically cannot go back to visit family or he’d be enlisted for service: forced patriotism all around sucks and often doesn’t end well

    • JanetDR says:

      There was a “University Year for Action” when I was in college, you worked as an intern with a community organization, attended a weekly seminar, and received 30 college credits and a small stipend of $205 a month for expenses. I worked with a migrant farm worker educational program and made life-long friends.

      • equality says:

        Mine was a work study program that the university did all the time. I helped with biology labs.

      • Bettyrose says:

        Those sound like amazing opportunities but how does a kid from a poor rural or urban school district with no college counselors get connected with that type of internship? Do they have recruiters on campus like the military does?

      • JanetDR says:

        I think the program can be for high school grads, the one I participated in was different in that you got college credit. I think its called AmerCorp, or something like that now.

    • Yup, Me says:

      The US has been at war for 90% of the years it has existed since 1776. (Something like 245 years out of 276). Any time young people sign up for military service, they are risking being pawns in some asshole’s war.

    • BeanieBean says:

      And thankfully Biden has been working diligently at keeping his pledge to forgive student loans, totalling $167 billion for 4.75 million people. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But yes, of course, paying for a university education should not have to mean going that far into debt for anyone.

      @equality: And Biden had to do this because the Public School Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program & its similar forgiveness program for teachers, initiated under Bush Jr., came to fruition during the trump admin, which was denying 99.9% of all forgiveness applications. That’s a real figure, based on real numbers. 99.9%. And it was denying 99.9% of all applications under the Temporary PSLF. I was one of the lucky .1% under that second program & it made a HUGE difference in my life. Two friends have had their loans forgiven under the Biden admin’s program.

    • North of Boston says:

      As someone who screens candidates when my company is hiring, i wish the government entities than run these organizations and the military had some kind of career planning, job search support to help people who have served better connect with civilian employers.

      I often see resumes of young and not so young candidates with years of service, but there is no indication of what skills, experience they have in terms that relate to non-service jobs; it’s just jargon and an alphabet-soup of programs, activities, equipment. And I think “there’s a chance they have skills somehow, somewhere that *might* relate to what Im looking for, but there’s no hint of it on the page” It’s like when people end their service, there’s no transition support for individuals, just that one guy who shows up once every couple of years to hand me his card and say “please hire veterans”. I would Guy, but can you folks at least throw us a line? Help us help you help them in a win-win way.

  7. Louise177 says:

    Unless there are specifications, this won’t affect Royals. They can say attending garden parties is community community service or going to some benefit. A weekend a month doesn’t seem much compared with being in the military for a year.

  8. rosa mwemaid says:

    It won’t happen, the forces don’t want conscripts, it was only said to get the older voters of the side of the Tories because they are more likely to vote.

  9. aquarius64 says:

    The Tories have to throw the no exmeption foe royal children to get the voters to buy in. Edward and Sophie’s daughter Louise is 20 so she would be affected immediately if this measure passes. George would definitely be expected to serve because as future king he’s the future commander in chief. This proposal wrecks the Waleses’ plan to get George out of military service. The immediate exemption I see are for Archie and Lili; they’re half American and live in the country of their birth mother Meghan.

    • rosa mwemaid says:

      George will be perfectly safe just as his father and grandfather were.

    • Libra says:

      I was wondering about Archie and Lily so am glad to see you addressing this. Makes sense that they would be exempt.

    • BeanieBean says:

      It wouldn’t affect Louise because they wouldn’t be able to create a brand new program so fast; she’d age out by the time they got it going.

  10. Vixxo says:


  11. Sofacat says:

    Sunak is flailing, trying desperately to grab the few Tory votes he might have left. This one is designed to appeal to the ‘put the hooligans into National Service, that’ll teach them’ gammon brigade. It’s not going to happen.

    • rosa mwemaid says:

      We get this every time the Tories are in trouble. heard it too many times before, and the answer comes back the same, we don’t want conscripts.

    • Lau says:

      Given that the voting age in the UK is 18 (16 for some elections in Scotland and Wales), Sunak is clearly just trying to hang onto the old people’s vote while completely disregarding the fact that young people will be able to vote against him. There are also parents who won’t want their children going into the military and will be voting against him just for that. Like, I get that the UK has an aging population like many other countries but this is plain stupidity.
      I’m expecting the stupidest promises from Sunak and his tory pears throughout this campaign just to see what will stick.

      • Sofacat says:

        You’re right, @Lau. Popcorn all the way! And we’re not even a week into it. 🤣

      • equality says:

        The old folks may have grandchildren that they might not want to have pressed into service.

      • Arpeggi says:

        And the old folks were teenagers/young adults in the 60s and 70s: I’m not sure it’s such a selling point for the “flower power” generation…

    • BeanieBean says:

      Yup, that’s exactly it.

  12. Bumblebee says:

    Based on the amount of time American military have to go to school and training before working, one year is not long enough. Interesting idea though.

  13. Amy Bee says:

    The Tories are going to lose anyway so this is not going to happen. The Royal Family might not be in existence when George etc come of age.

    • rosa mwemaid says:

      Charles weak, William bad tempered, snobby, George shy.
      Should have been Anne, strong, Harry, compassionate, Charlotte, outgoing.

  14. [insert_catchy_name] says:

    It’s annoying that the media is even giving any attention to this stupid, desperate, throwaway, never-gonna-happen campaign pledge.

  15. Oh come on. says:

    Rishi wants universal mandatory national service? Well, I want a pony and world peace.

    Rishi and I are equally likely to be PM of the UK on July 6.

    • Chrissy says:

      LOL. Unfortunately the pony is the only realistic thing on this wish list IMO!

  16. Serena says:

    This is a sure way to lose the election. Is he getting ready for war ?

    • Amy Bee says:

      This being proposed to appease the right wingers who believe that the British Military is too small and is not ready to fight a war.

      • tc says:

        The British military is too small to fight a war which is one of the many reasons Brexit was a boneheaded idea. Conscription isn’t the answer, diplomacy and alliances are.

  17. abritdebbie says:

    The most interesting slip happened when a certain ex PMs sister said that it was an excellent idea as the country needs people to pick fruit etc… The word voluntary also suggests it is unpaid. So the cynic in me thinks the rich kids will get the fancy internships that will lead to a job, whereas the poor kids are going to be volunteered to pick fruit and all the other low paid jobs that are not being filled as the pay is so bad.

  18. ML says:

    When I first got to Europe, I lived in Germany for a year after backpacking. They used to have this system for guys (either the military or a civil service [like working in hospitals or with old people]). The Dutch, I found out, also used to have it, as did the Finns. I don’t know if the UK did—this is something that the EU states sometimes discuss bringing back, though I don’t know if any are.

    The guys who got out had actual health issues (not Trump’s).

    • Couch Potato says:

      Norway still has that kind of system for all sexes. Princess Ingrid Alexandra is serving in the military right now. My cousin’s son is in the same bataljon and lives in the same barracks as her.

      • ML says:

        Norway’s all-inclusive approach sounds more fair.
        I have no male friends around my age in the NLs that served like this, but I know it wasn’t unpopular in Germany way back when, because if you were anti military, you could do the civil service. Both the right and left politicians supported this. I think the civil in addition to military service makes a difference: you can put it on your resume and places that have difficulty getting volunteers have a built-in source of help.

        I think Rishi is in trouble for a bleep-ton of conservative to far-right governance. This is not going to be the most controversial reason to vote against him. Plus, he now has that classic wet-suit/ no-umbrella image problem that is going to haunt him.

    • Lauren says:

      I know at least one country has revived or at least increased there system because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      Italy used to have it and was abolished in 2005 because it was absurd and was a year wasted out of the job market or university. Anyone born after 1986 in Italy never did any military service. Fortunately. Military should have been paid for their service all along.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Israel has mandatory military and community training, as well. I think the concept is fine…if the government gives people incentive to care about the civil process. You’ll never see it in the United States outside of the emergency draft precisely because it goes against certain cultural principles and because, frankly, most of us aren’t wasting time serving for a country that doesn’t give us basic social services for our tax dollars.

  19. SarahCS says:

    The military have already noped out on this. It’s election hot air to appeal to the ‘young people need to be beaten into line like they were in my day’ class of right wing older folk.

    • ML says:

      Lol, there are just so many reasons to vote against Tories, that this is rather inconsequential. My British neighbor is far more upset about Brexit (she’s an expat) and the NHS (because of her elderly parents), for instance. I know Starmer isn’t entirely popular, but I wish you all the best in getting rid of the current crew.

  20. Veronica S. says:

    “Hey, we know we’re continuously chipping away at the social services your tax dollars pay for AND making the cost of living exceed current incomes, but have you considered donating even more of your life to a government that doesn’t care about you?” I knew Britain was going nearly as mad as the US when I heard about the “warming centers” because of the utility costs. Maybe they should borrow some Frenchies to make some heads roll.

  21. SamuelWhiskers says:

    There’s a lot of talk that Rishi actively wants to lose the election as he has a fancy new job in Silicon Valley lined up and the reason he called the election for July is so he can get his family settled in California before the next California school year starts. He’s barely fighting an election campaign, he’s done.

    The UK only had mandatory military service for 16 years, no one alive under 85 ever experienced it; people act like it’s some kind of proud British history and it just never was at all.

    • Jaded says:

      So he’s basically handing the election to Labour on a silver platter? Aside from Liz “The Lettuce” Truss, he’ll go down in history as one of the worst PMs ever.

    • ML says:

      I was unaware that Rishi and family were possibly heading to California, Samuel Whiskers, but I did read Zoe Williams’ article in The Guardian saying that he is actively sabotaging his campaign: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/article/2024/may/27/is-rishi-sunak-actively-trying-to-lose-the-election

      • Berkeleyfarm says:

        I’ve definitely been hearing it from my UK sources. I’m Silicon Valley adjacent, so not best thrilled at the idea of his showing up here.

    • SamuelWhiskers says:

      I think he just knows that the election is unwinnable, and he’d rather lose now so he can feck off to California, and use various factors involved in a summer election to hopefully lose less badly, than hang on grimly until November.

      • Kane says:

        Agree Sam whiskers. Rishi is a horrible pm. He had a few good ideas but retreated instantly. The rest seems to be a combination of “I’m rich of course I should be pm”.

        I think he realizes he messed up and is trying to scrap a few votes together. He doesn’t know how to lead. He is just a rich guy. It’s sad. He could’ve leaned into being from an immigrant family and pulled out atleast 1 good initiative. I’m so surprised he has been so bad. With a billionaire wife just use her money to fund a few programs! Lol.

  22. Kokiri says:

    Israel has mandatory service, I think it’s 2 years. Every citizen does it.
    I found out because Gal Gadot did hers & I was reading about her new movies.

    So it is definitely a possibility if Tories win.

    • SamuelWhiskers says:

      Israel is a unique case. Israel is militaristic state where the population has been constantly under attack (and attacking others) ever since it was founded. I’m Jewish, and there’s such a strong belief that a Jewish homeland is essential for ensuring that Jews survive at all, given how many genocides we’ve survived and how much that psychic trauma has scarred the populace. I’m not saying any of that to defend any of Israel’s actions, just to explain why Israeli citizens are (for the most part, of course there are many objectors) willing to do military service.

      The UK hasn’t been invaded in nearly thousand years, and apart from N Ireland it hasn’t seen battle on its own land in centuries. Young Brits are absolutely not going to be willing to take up arms to go fight in countries across the world just to protect Britain’s oil interests. Obviously there will always be some people who want to enlist, for various reasons, but it’s not remotely comparable to Israel in any way. Israelis support conscription because their own country has literally been bombed every single day for decades, so conscription is seen as being about actively protecting themselves and their own country. No one thinks the UK is at risk of being invaded or bombed, unless Putin hits the nuclear button or something.

      This would never get past the House of Lords in a million years.

      • Blithe says:

        @SamuelWhiskers, Two questions: England was bombed during WWII. I had understood that the goal of the Blitz was to get England to surrender to the Nazis. Would you not regard this as an invasion? If so, this is still within the living memory of at least a few people— rather than nearly 1,000 years ago, and may have some impact on how people living there view the threat of war, and their sense of risk, especially given Putin’s apparent goals. I’m not suggesting that anyone there supports conscription. I wouldn’t know. I am suggesting that the experience of war and threats of war are more recent than what you’ve described.

        I’ve read that in Israel, the Ultra Orthodox are both exempt from conscription, and a growing percentage of the population. Do you know if the exemptions are still in place — and still widely accepted and supported ?

  23. Annalise says:

    In the pic of the Wales family, SO weird how they’re all wearing the same shades of blue EXCEPT Charlotte. The only one in green. I can only imagine how weird and uncomfortable it must have felt for her, to be purposely dresses like an “outsider”

  24. bisynaptic says:

    LOL, Good luck, Rishi!