Mr Cameron's programme would involve school leavers in a few months of community service. It would enable young people to mix with people from different backgrounds "and to learn about the realities of life in different communities". The meeting of youth organisations - including The Prince's Trust, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and Fairbridge - will help Mr Cameron define the nature of a programme that will inevitably be compared with National Service:
- Should it be compulsory, or would that diminish its appeal?
- If it’s not compulsory, how do we make it universal?
- How can we create enough good quality opportunities?
- Can we find ways to increase youth volunteering in our public services?
Mr Cameron will say:
"Those voices who are warning us about the dangers of ghettoisation in our country and a disintegrating sense of national cohesion are absolutely right. We need to bring people together and bring Britain together. I think that the best way of bringing people together is to enable them to do things together. To build something together that is of lasting value. I am always struck when asking anyone of my father's generation who did national service by the fact that they tend to reply in a similar way. It was something we all did together - irrespective of who we were, where we lived, where we came from, or what god we worshipped. Today, university is our closest equivalent, with each campus becoming a melting pot mixing together all the elements of our country. But can that ever be enough? Isn't there more we can do to enable young people to come together and give service to their country?"
Mr Cameron clearly sees this programme as emblematic of his big idea of 'shared responsibility':
"This idea, and this approach, goes to the heart of my political philosophy. There’s not a single challenge that’s not best tackled by asking what can we all do about it – government, individuals, families, businesses, voluntary organisations. And that’s the right approach to politics – not waiting around for the government to do things, but bringing people together to make things happen."
Few other Conservative politicians could propose such a programme without being accused of being old-fashioned. But in today's Independent Bruce Anderson thinks that is one of the virtues of David Cameron:
"Mr Cameron can bring the futilities of the modernisation debate to a rapid end, because as soon as he is elected, the party will appear to have modernised. As he is modernity personified, he can devote himself to stressing those traditional Tory values and principles which still resonate with the electorate."
Few cries are more likely to resonate with traditional Tories than 'bring back National Service!'