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Labour dub Sunak ‘football manager announcing transfers with no cash’ as they find ‘101 holes in National Service plan’

28 May 2024, 17:26

Labour has slammed Sunak's National Service plan
Labour has slammed Sunak's National Service plan. Picture: Getty
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Labour have dubbed Rishi Sunak an "embattled football manager with no cash" as they claimed there were 101 holes in his National Service plan.

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The party's election attack dog, Jonathan Ashworth, has written to Tory Chair Richard Holden to demand answers for how they would pay for their flagship announcement.

Rishi Sunak earlier defended his plans to force every teen to do a year of military service or one weekend a month volunteering if he wins the election, saying it would help "keep kids out of trouble."

But Tories got themselves in a muddle as a minister refused to say whether parents could be fined - or even face jail for not sending their kids.

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Rishi Sunak has defended his National Service plan
Rishi Sunak has defended his National Service plan. Picture: Getty

Labour have asked the Tories whether the public could face prosecution, whether recruits would face military law, and whether celeb teens like Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai would be forced to do it.

A string of ministers have previously slapped down the idea of bringing back National Service, including Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.

The Tories have said they will redirect some cash from the levelling up budget into the new plans - which will cost at least £2.5billion per year - but haven't said where the rest will come from.

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Labour's Jonathan Ashworth claimed there were huge holes in the policy and called on them to come clean on where the money could come from, and how it would work.

He wrote: "As a football fan, you will appreciate that an embattled manager with a £75 million transfer kitty cannot start announcing plans for his second or third signing of the summer if he has already spent £120 million on a player with a broken leg.

"We have seen senior military veterans and former Conservative giants lining up to rubbish the proposal, serving government ministers seeking to distance themselves from it, and other colleagues of yours – including your own Deputy Chair – flailing around on the airwaves trying to explain how it will work.

"Most important, your estimate that the policy will cost £2.5bn p/a to deliver has been exposed as a wild miscalculation, with independent experts advising that just the cost of training, equipping and housing 30,000 new army recruits each year will cost multiple times that amount, even before you get to the cost of providing Community Service activities – and accompanying training – for another 700,000 18-year olds each year.

"We have all been awaiting with interest your revised estimates for the true cost of the scheme, and how much of the £6bn per year of tax avoidance savings will actually be required to pay for it."

Jonathan Ashworth with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves
Jonathan Ashworth with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. Picture: Getty

A Labour source told LBC:  "If the Tories want to be taken seriously, they need to get their sums in order.

"Rishi Sunak is the PM that wants kids to study maths until they're 18 and yet won't check his own shoddy workings.

"Military big-wigs say it won't work, the sums say it doesn't add up, and parents still don’t know if they’ll face fines or even prison. The best national service the Tories could do is to answer these questions.”

The Conservative Party has been approached for comment.

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