National citizen service

August 31, 2011, 8:46 PM GMT+0

More than half of British people support reintroducing ‘national service’, a compulsory period within the armed services for all young people, our poll has revealed, which asked the question in light of the riots which hit English cities earlier this month.

‘National citizen service’, a mandatory spell of community service for all young people, had even more support, with over three quarters of our poll saying they support the idea.

Older panellists were more in favour of the proposals, but even so, more than two thirds of 18 to 24 year olds would back ‘national citizen service’.

  • 56% of British people would support the reintroduction of ‘national service’, a compulsory period within the armed services for all young people
  • 32% of people would oppose the reintroduction of national service, which began during the second World War and was abolished in 1960
  • 77% backed the concept of ‘National citizen service’, a compulsory period of community service (such as helping community or charitable projects) for all young people
  • Just 14% of people would oppose ‘national citizen service’

Age differences

Perhaps unsurprisingly, older panellists were more in support of both types of service than their younger counterparts.

‘Deep problems’

Following last month’s rioting across England, Prime Minister David Cameron last week announced that he wants to roll out ‘national citizen service’ more widely than previously planned, as, he said, the unrest had highlighted the importance of responsibility and self-discipline among young people.

Although Cameron has never advocated any compulsory service, he is a strong advocate of making non-compulsory ‘national citizen service’ widely available.

In an article published in the Sunday Express, Cameron reaffirmed his view that the recent rioting stemmed from the existence of ‘deep problems’ in society, saying that, ‘before the riots we were already looking to roll this out across the country, with up to 30,000 teenagers taking part next year, but after the riots, I feel our ambitions weren't big enough.

‘I want the national citizen service to be available to every teenager after GCSEs. I want them to learn that they can make a difference in their communities and that real fulfilment comes not from trashing things or being selfish but by building things and working with others.’

In contrast, former Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested that such a widespread approach might not be needed, commenting in the Observer that Britain was ‘not in the grip of some general moral decline’ but caused by a ‘group of young, alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream’.