Sunak accuses Labour of not offering 'single new idea' as Starmer brands National Service plan a 'teenage Dad's Army'

27 May 2024, 19:04 | Updated: 27 May 2024, 19:09

Sunak accuses Starmer of not offering 'one single new idea' as Labour leader brands Tory National Service plan a 'teenage Dad's Army'
Sunak accuses Starmer of not offering 'one single new idea' as Labour leader brands Tory National Service plan a 'teenage Dad's Army'. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Rishi Sunak has accused Sir Keir Starmer of not offering 'one single new idea' as he continued to defend his much-criticised National Service proposal, arguing it will 'foster a culture of service' and 'strengthen our country's security'.

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In a speech to Conservative members in Buckinghamshire on Monday afternoon, the prime minister said his proposal for a new form of national service was a "bold decision", while he claimed the opposition's ideas were unambitious.

Mr Sunak said: "Keir Starmer has made yet another half hour speech today, but was there one single new idea in that speech?"

No," Tory members replied.

The prime minister continued: "They have had 14 years to think about what they want to do and they have got nothing to say about the future of our country and that is what we are going to show. We are going to show that we have got a plan for the future."

The Labour leader, meanwhile, dismissed the prime minister's National Service proposal as "desperate", branding the plan as a "teenage Dad's Army".

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Iain Dale says proposed National Service policy has "wrenched back the initiative" for the Tories

Dad's Army
Dad's Army. Picture: Alamy

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Sir Keir said the Tory's National Service policy would be "paid for by cancelling levelling-up funding and money from tax avoidance that we would use to invest in our NHS".

"All elections are a choice and this is a clear one: levelling-up and the NHS with Labour or more desperate chaos with the Tories. That is the choice."

Mr Sunak defended his flagship policy to reporters, however, arguing that it would help "young people get the skills and the opportunities that they need which is going to serve them very well in life".

He continued: "It's going to foster a culture of service which is going to be incredibly powerful for making our society more cohesive and in a more uncertain and dangerous world it's going to strengthen our country's security and resilience.

"For all these reasons I think this is absolutely the right thing to do. Yes, it is bold, but that's the kind of leadership I offer."

Mr Sunak also confirmed that under his plans 18-year-olds who sign up for the military section of his national service plan would be paid a stipend to help with living costs.

The scheme will cost £2.5 billion a year by 2029-30, according to the Conservatives' figures. Oppostion parties have argued it will cost much more, however.

The prime minister, answering questions on TikTok about the Tory policy, said: "As is the case in other countries, we will provide a stipend to help with living costs for those doing the military element alongside their training.

"Meanwhile, on the civic side, we will make sure organisations have funding for training and administration."

He was answering questions on the Conservatives' TikTok account, even though security concerns have seen its use banned from Government devices

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during his visit to Amersham and Chiltern, Monday
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during his visit to Amersham and Chiltern, Monday. Picture: Alamy

Shelagh Fogarty speaks to Jonathan Ashworth about the 'man' Keir Starmer

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Sunak also rebuffed claims that he would flee to California and resign as an MP if he lost the General Election.

The prime minister said he was committed to a whole term of office as an MP.

The Prime Minister told reporters: "I am surprised that Lord Goldsmith, who I don't think I have spoken to in a very long time, seems to have some intimate knowledge of my family's arrangements.

"But no, of course not. My kids are at school, this is my home, and as I said earlier my football team has got promoted to the Premier League (Southampton) so I intend to spend many more happy occasions in St Mary's watching them."

He added: "I was born and brought up in Southampton, I was raised with a very strong ethic of service to one's community. That is what I believe, that is what I have always done, that is why I got into politics, that is why I became a Member of Parliament and that is what I will continue to do."

Pressed on whether he would stay on for the whole term, Mr Sunak added: "That is what I am here to do. I mean, that is obviously subject to my constituents giving me the honour of continuing to represent them."

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