There has been a buzz in the press about the potential need for the UK to reintroduce national service due to the increased threats to UK security on the continent of Europe. Wow this will excite certain trotskyists i.e. those who support workers militias, but this is unlikely to happen for two reasons.
It seems that commentators have forgotten the reason the UK abolished national service is that the army no longer wanted the responsibility and cost of turning unwilling volunteers into effective soldiers and this is an even bigger problem in the Air Force and Navy.
Second reason is that this is a problem caused by governments, specifically Tory governments. Cameron’s defence review in 2010 cut all three forces and delayed numerous procurement/re-equipment programmes. We note that Cameron’s 2010 review was so bad, that he had to do another one in 2015. I commented mainly on the nuclear deterrent, but in this article, I argued [and on Medium] that a weak conventional defence makes nuclear escalation more likely and identified significant failings in all three wings of the armed services.
Johnson’s review of 2021 was an attempt to reposition the UK armed forces so better support Johnson’s vison of a post-Brexit global Britain. In shorthand, the Navy won the review with a promise to double the number of non-carrier surface warships over the coming decade. To pay for this the British Army is now the smallest it’s been since Napoleonic time; beyond the manpower statistics this has been shown as its ammunition stores are insufficient to enable the UK to be a constant ally to Ukraine.
For the British Army the last thing it needs is the additional work in training unwilling and often ill-educated recruits.
National Service, really?
Originally published at https://davelevy.info on January 29, 2024.