David Abbott, journalist and author of Culture and Identity, argues that it is worth considering resurrecting the idea of National Service.
It’s not often that I find myself in agreement with the Daily Express, but when they welcomed David Cameron's proposals for a short version of national service - a "national citizenship service" - I thought they had a point. Further scouring of the Express website revealed that no less an authority than Andrew Marr, normally more to the left of things, had declared it a good idea in his latest book.
So could bringing back national service work? The idea has numerous attractions. I challenge anyone who’s viewed ‘Bad Lads Army’ not to be impressed by the apparent changes in the featured delinquents. You might think the last thing we ought to be doing with our young people is teaching them even more about how to use guns and kill people, but this would be to miss the point. OK, it’s a television programme; I have no idea what was edited out, nor the degree of recidivism. Nor was it all pretty viewing. However, on the face of it, being subjected to the discipline of a few worldly wise NCOs seemed to have an enlightening effect on the dodgy delinquents.
Now, your idea of NCOs may be either wildly idealised or darkly pessimistic, so let me sing their praises for them. The Bad Lads Army NCOs were not saints, but neither were they sinners. They would swear and curse and yes, at times, bully. But it was benevolent bullying. And later on, these were blokes who could ask the dodgy boys some tough moral questions. One of the lads was put on the spot by an NCO who asked him whether he loved the girlfriend with whom he had a baby, yet had refused to marry. On another occasion a lad was put under severe moral pressure because it was believed he had cheated in a physical task by using pain killers. He caved in, confessed and was punished.