These last few years have changed us in so many ways. One that’s noticeable is that subjects which were once toxic to mention politically are now accepted by a larger section of the public. An example would be tax. Polls suggest that a majority of the public would like to see higher taxes on the wealthy to help balance the budget. But I’m not going to talk about a subject that now has majority support, instead I will tackle one that probably is still toxic.
A few years ago on this blog I bought up the subject of national service. it’s a difficult subject to discuss if one hasn’t had to endure it oneself. I was lucky and missed it as did Will Self, pictured above, who missed it by a lot more years than myself. Yet two days ago Will Self bought it up again on BBC Radio 4′s A Point of View. You can see the description by clicking here.
Now I don’t agree totally with Will Self who sees national service being just military conscription, but it’s interesting how he links it with the lack of real life experience our politicians seem to now have, which I don’t think I did when I wrote about it. Anyway I do think he is correct to see this as a way of improving our political class.
Now my view is that national service shouldn’t just be military, but should include the policing, public sector service and even parenting for young mothers. Reaching eighteen, for example, young people should have the chance of choosing the service they would like to spend a year on. Many will probably want to follow a military path, or perhaps some sort of environmental job. Who know foreign aid may come into it like Kennedy’s Peace Corp. Perhaps for unpopular work like possibly policing, a financial inducement can be offered.
Where we gain is that we would then a truly citizen’s army and citizen’s police force and so on. Young people would have some experience before having to look for work or continuing in education. I can imagine some little Asian girl, probably with an arranged marriage in front of her, being told the facts of life by a white girl from a Liverpool estate or a black girl from Tottenham and discovering the ability to resist parental pressure. There is a lot of going for this idea, better integration being just one. Maybe this could be part of an FDR-like New Deal for Britain.
I think the rules would have to be pretty strict. There must be no separate entry point for an officer class. From princes to travellers it should be equal. Also no student deferments as this is a way of bringing the system into disrepute. Anyway don’t most better off students want to have a gap year.
Just a dream of course. Still maybe Will Self will make it just a little less toxic. As he says it doesn’t have to be reserve of the right or I would say the old Tory shire warriors. Of course some may rather make jokes about Will’s connections with toxic substances rather than with toxic ideas, but I can’t but help think he is just that one step ahead of where public opinion may be in couple of years.