Instead of National Service, how about just service?

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

It is a political truism that at election time, politicians attempt to bribe their people.

This election is no different and the Conservative party have reached out to what they believe to be their core constituency to excite their imagination and to demand their allegiance and vote.

They've done it by offering a form of compulsory National Service for 18-year-olds after they leave school .

Politically this may be a sign of desperation. The Conservatives have done very little to conserve society and cultural values. Now they are worried that their natural base has repudiated them and have come up with the idea of National Service as being something that might win them votes.

So, for those who are not on the Left, and particularly to Christians, does this have any merit?

Is the idea of National Service something that Christians should support?

Many commentators have pointed out that the whole idea of belonging to a 'nation' has been rejected and downplayed, especially in education and by teachers. It has become associated with white supremacy, and oppressive nationalism, built on a platform of odious colonialism. If you have a government education set on decolonizing the curriculum, don't be surprised if along with it, you inculcate in the young an aversion to their country and its history.

It then becomes a bit contradictory to suggest being required to join the armed forces on the principle that dying for a country that has become despised is an inspirational proposition.

At the same time, the armed forces are reluctant too. They worry that having been shrunk to a historically low level and almost dysfunctional level, the introduction of National Service will place too much of a strain on them. Being required to train teenagers who are stroppy and resentful because they don't want to be there, who don't believe in the armed forces, and resent the loss of their freedom at the hands of the state, is something the military don't want to be part of either. They are badly understaffed and have other things to do!

But is there a germ of inspiration in this idea that Christians might pick up and reflect back to the government? Is this a bad idea that could be improved? Could it be turned into a vision for renewing the community, giving teenagers a different perspective on life, and teaching them some skills? Perhaps even developing their 'character'?

We all know from the prophets that "without a vision, the people perish".

Our secular culture is not rich in vision. It inculcates a spirit of resentment which drives most of woke cultural aspiration. It peddles a false and hollow utopianism, driven by progressive values. And these values, if true to form, will only end up in censoring, then imprisoning and ultimately, as Marxism does everywhere, executing its own citizens.

Have our progressives learnt nothing from the history of Stalin and the Gulags, Mao Zedong and his mass executions, and Pol Pot's killing fields?

So perhaps we can do better?

If we consider the idea of conscription as constituted by a covenant between citizen, teenagers and our society, then what might a community conscription programme look like?

What if, as part of expressing their gratitude for being educated free at the hands of the state for the best part of 13 years, teenagers were to give a single year of their life back to the community and back to their society?

One of the most serious problems that we face is the decaying infrastructure. What if teenagers were taught to fill potholes in the road surface? The pothole crisis is causing devastating damage to vehicles and anxiety to drivers. Engineering skills could be taught, rural and urban roads made safe, bicyclists protected.

What if teams of teenagers helped to address the deluge of filthy, decaying litter that corrupts and tarnishes the sides of our motorways and A roads? They might get a sense of what an avalanche of fast food boxes flung from cars at night amounts to. And if they have any Green aspirations at all, they might clean and rescue the local environment.

The National Health Service never has enough employees. What if teenagers spent some of their time as a porter in hospitals, helping the sick and elderly move around the corridors from one ward and one operating theatre to another?

There are other services that depend totally on volunteers. What if teenagers were taught to drive and given access to fleets of cars which were put at the service of the elderly to take them to hospital and medical appointments?

What if they were helped to pass motorbike tests and given decent bikes to carry blood around the country rapidly? What if teenagers were taught gardening skills and sent to the houses of the elderly to do some basic maintenance on gardens and hedges?

What if they were taught plumbing skills and offered to help cash-strapped local councils as small, modest repair squads, clearing away some of the backlog of social housing repairs that keep the poorest in our community in squalor?

National Conscription? Teaching children how to march, use guns and bayonets? Perhaps not. Learning valuable life skills and helping to ease the pain and the strain of the most vulnerable? Why not?