Why Sunak's National Service pledge that would have affected football stars is pure nonsense

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The Prime Minister has been outlining policies that would potentially impact the England national team

If in doubt, send the children to war. Rishi Sunak, still wringing out his soggy little slacks from last week’s snap election announcement, during which he did a remarkably accurate impression of the mollycoddled rat from Flushed Away, has already resorted to clutching at straws - presumably, big chunky plastic ones so as to not appear too woke - as his doomed campaign has got out of the traps like a three-legged greyhound with leporiphobia.

In a floundering exhibition of ‘Big C’ Conservatism (and other, shorter words beginning with the same letter that would likely get me sacked), the well-past-his-Prime Minister has aimed to appease the Tory Party’s septuagenarian overlords by weaponising their resentment towards their own grandchildren. As you will likely know by now, if Sunak gets his way and the government somehow wins a majority in July, National Service will be introduced for all 18-year-olds. Next, a policy legalising shoplifting from garden centres for over-65s. Anything to stop them from following Lee ‘I do have a brown friend, actually’ Anderson and his GB News disciples into the haggard clutches of Reform UK.

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Of course, Sunak’s plan hinges on two of the great British universalities; discrediting younger generations as work shy delinquents and fetishising hardships that none of us actually lived through. There’s a strong argument to be made for this country being a much less antagonistic place if the poppy-brained masses simply did a bit of LARPing every now and again. Get it out of their system.

But - aside from the fact that it is a terrible, ill-conceived, antiquated idea - perhaps the reason why Sunak’s manifesto pledge rankles so much is because the only thing worse than being made to do National Service is being made to do National Service by a knee-high multi-multi-millionaire who looks as if he would get shellshock from a pillow fight. Richie Rish, a man who has been a Conservative MP since 2015, is hanging his election campaign on a policy that acts as a dog whistle criticism of young people who supposedly don’t respect the well-being of this country enough. That’s like the Cookie Monster running on a platform of bringing in the death penalty for biscuit addicts. Maybe Sunak would do well to remember that respect is a two-way street.

Anyways, all of this is relevant here, on our silly little football site, because the Beautiful Game has become something of a crucible for political jousting over the past week or so; partly because the Prime Minister insists on using it as a canvas to daub his feeble efforts at everyman relatability (looking forward to Euro 2024, Wales fans?); partly because at a recent photo opportunity, Sunak painfully illustrated that he does, in fact, have all the close control and technical ability that you might expect a Wintonian Borrower to possess; partly because after it emerged that Keir Starmer is, somewhat shockingly, able to kick a ball with a semi-decent measure of poise, Labour and their unusually meme-savvy social media team have pounced on Rishi’s ineptitude like a pack of ravenous hyenas in a supermarket delicatessen storeroom.

Mainly though, it is because the opposition have also turned to football when poking holes in Sunak’s delusional National Service policy. “Jude Bellingham, Michael Owen, Wayne RooneyMarcus Rashford, Luke Shaw have all been part of a senior England squad at an international competition when aged 18,” said Shadow Paymaster General Jon Ashworth, in a dossier attacking the divisive commitment. “Would they have been required to complete their one weekend of National Service during those tournaments? Would they be taken out of playing during the inevitable shootout in the semi-finals?”

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There are a few things to unpack here. Firstly, imagine having to do your National Service with Michael Owen. Talk about insult and injury. Secondly, less of the ‘inevitable shootout’ chat, please, Jon. I know how manifestation works. And thirdly, the Tories’ official response to Labour’s line of questioning basically amounts to ‘National Service for everybody. No exceptions. Not even the illustrious boy prince Luke Shaw’.

Now, maybe on some level we should be patting the Conservative Party on the head for finally showing a basic understanding of the concept of egalitarianism after a decade-and-a-half of crookedly lionising anything but. That being said, the only blanket approach that should be taken to National Service is a blanket rejection.

Because you see, whether or not a person has a functioning moral compass and is willing to contribute to society writ large is not determined by if they were forced to spend a year climbing cargo nets and polishing SA80s until they can see their own teary expressions in the barrel.

No, well-rounded adults tend to be the products of well-rounded childhoods, with good educational foundations and adequately-funded social support, nutritious diets and parents or guardians who are not so consumed by the stress of paying rent and energy bills in a cost of living crisis that they actually have the requisite time and emotional capacity to dedicate themselves to a happy, wholesome upbringing.

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If you really want young people to love this country, stop screwing them over at every juncture. Provide them with free school meals, viable employment opportunities, realistically-attainable housing, a sustainable National Health Service, beaches that aren’t stained with the murk of sewage, libraries, community centres, public spaces, a little bit of hope.

Footballers shouldn’t have to do National Service, but just as significantly, neither should sixth-formers or university students or apprentices or trainee nurses or part-time bar staff or anybody making the difficult transition into adulthood and finding their way in a world that is already heavily, brutally stacked against them. Now if Rishi Sunak could just do us all a national service by packing his bags and sodding off to California sooner rather than later, that would be very much obliged.

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