11:18 GMT20 January 2021
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    We should bring back national service. It would make us a stronger, more equal country.

    The coronavirus pandemic has clearly illustrated just how brilliant our armed forces are and just what can be achieved with team effort and training. Who would have thought that we could build these Nightingale hospitals in such a quick time?

    Now with Boris channelling his ‘inner Churchill’ and hopefully getting a firmer grip on the crisis, it is time for him also to develop his John F Kennedy spirit. He needs to tell the nation’s youngsters that they should “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” 

    I’ve long been an advocate of compulsory national service but before you rush to condemn me I do not mean the style of National service we had up to 1960.

    From the Richest to the Poorest

    I don’t think that would be the right fit and I know we have one of the greatest armed forces in the world because it is voluntary and many in the forces would not want conscripts on the front line with them.

    However, I do feel that every youngster at the age of 16 should spend a year where they are effectively in national service and this should be largely run by military or ex-military personnel. Once this year is completed they can move onto A levels or into the job market.

    I believe that this would change the lives of thousands of our youngsters. The camaraderie, discipline and training would give many something to focus on and make them feel as if they really have a contribution to make.

    I don’t subscribe to the idea that all of our youngsters are idle, lazy or incompetent slobs but I do think the idea of giving service to your country would benefit them all.

    Of course, David Cameron tried to introduce a voluntary scheme but the weakness of that was in the concept of it being voluntary.

    I believe it should be compulsory. And when I say compulsory I mean compulsory for everyone from the richest in the land to the poorest.

    My old man used to tell me that the best bit of his national service was that he met young lads from all corners of the UK and from all classes. They had to bond together as well as work together.

    Closer Together While Staying Apart

    Some of my greatest experiences have come from being forced to do something I didn’t particularly want to do.

    I still remember the blind fear of standing on a cliff edge and being told to abseil down whilst on a school outdoor pursuits holiday in Wales. I was terrified but the opportunity to back out was not there as my hard-line PE teachers would never allow it. So, I took the plunge, literally and metaphorically, and stepped over the ledge. The sense of elation and achievement when I hit the bottom has never left me.

    And of course, abseiling is a team effort. It requires all of the group to work together and as my old PE teacher use to say, you are only as strong as your weakest link!

    These experiences bond you together and the memories never fade, apart from, just like a fisherman with the one that got away, the cliff gets larger in the retelling of the anecdote!

    There have been some wonderful examples of how people have pulled together to help each other in this crisis.

    Look at the support and the inspiration that Captain Tom Moore has engendered raising over 29 million pounds and being flooded with birthday cards.

    Or what about the young carer, Kia Tobin, who noticed that one of her residents, Ken Benbow 94, always went to bed with a picture of his late wife, Ada. So, Kia presented him with a cushion with Ada’s face on it, paid for out of her own pocket. The whole nation cheered and welled up and the video went viral. It made me feel proud to be British.

    Then there are the thousands of youngsters who have offered themselves as volunteers to help the NHS.

    This pandemic has brought us closer together even though we have to stay apart!

    More Caring and Inclusive Society

    One of my major criticisms of Boris during this crisis was that the UK was ill-prepared for it and without the devoted efforts of our emergency services and the armed forces we would be in an even more terrible situation than we are now.

    This must never be allowed to happen again and although serious questions need to be asked and answered about this, now is probably not the time or place to sort it out.

    However, in this atmosphere of many people wanting the lockdown lifted or eased we do need to consider what kind of society we want going forward.

    A massive benefit of this dreadful virus is that crime has fallen but as sure as eggs is eggs the feral, the feckless and the long-term useless will soon be back out on the streets screwing your car and shooting each other.

    Again, national service has a place for these young yobs where thy could have discipline instilled in them and perhaps get a few male role models in their life which often lies at the root of their behaviour.

    I’m not saying it would reform or retrain every feral youngster but look how boxing clubs or other martial arts can turn around kids’ lives and give them both discipline and ambition.

    Many of these kids who we condemn or are quite honestly frightened off have never really been given a chance to flourish and find direction in life.

    Could national service be the answer? Some of these kids may well want to join the military after a year and they should be encouraged to do so.

    Whatever they choose to do after their year of service, one major benefit is that we would have an almost reservist group of trained youngsters who could be called upon to help in times of national crisis.

    We’re all applauding our heroes every Thursday and of course on Tuesday we had a minute’s silence for the NHS fallen but what better way to honour your country than giving a year of your life to public service at 16?

    According to the Times, other European countries are already ahead of us in the concept of National service as Estonia and Norway have conscription. Meanwhile last year, France trialled a compulsory scheme for teenagers that was based more on community which is kind of what I am suggesting.

    The problem in this country, of course, is that at the mere mention of national service the debate is closed down by the human rights brigade.

    However, I think it is time for us to have a robust debate about how we could create a more caring, committed and inclusive society where young people have a real stake in our collective future.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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