Tory Campaign In Meltdown As Minister Criticises Sunak's Flagship National Service Plan

Rishi Sunak election campaign has got off to a bad start.
Rishi Sunak election campaign has got off to a bad start. CHRIS RATCLIFFE via Getty Images

The Conservatives’ general election campaign is in meltdown after a minister criticised Rishi Sunak’s flagship policy of bringing back national service.

Steve Baker said the PM’s plan for all 18-year-olds to either enlist in the Army for a year or volunteer for community service had been “sprung on” Tory candidates.

It emerged yesterday that just last week, defence minister Andrew Murrison had set out why the government did not support the return of national service.

Baker, the Northern Ireland minister, made clear his unhappiness at the policy on X (formerly Twitter) today.

He said: “I don’t like to be pedantic but a government policy would have been developed by ministers on the advice of officials and collectively agreed. I would have had a say on behalf of NI. But this proposal was developed by a political adviser or advisers and sprung on candidates, some of whom are relevant ministers.”

Baker’s outburst is another blow for the policy, which has been mired in confusion since being announced over the weekend.

Ministers have been unable to explain what the sanctions would be for anyone who failed to take part, although home secretary James Cleverly has insisted no one will be jailed.

Foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan today suggested the parents of those who fail to take part could be sanctioned - but was then slapped down by Tory deputy chairman James Daly.

He told Times Radio that Trevelyan “certainly doesn’t have responsibility for this area” and pointed out that James Cleverly was “saying something very different” yesterday.

Daly added: “I think we’ll have to see. There will be rules that will come out from the prime minister. I can’t speak in respect of those.”

In a further blow to the prime minister, the Tories were forced to suspend an outgoing MP after she endorsed the Reform UK candidate in the seat she represented for nine years.

Lucy Allan said: “I am supporting Alan Adams to be Telford’s next MP. If you want to help Alan or donate to his campaign, sign up on his website.”

A Tory spokesperson said: “Lucy Allan has been suspended from the Party with immediate effect. The people of Telford now have the chance to vote for a dedicated and hardworking new candidate who will put Telford first. A vote for Reform is a vote for Keir Starmer.”

Meanwhile, former Tory minister Lord Goldsmith also launched a bitter attack on Sunak.

He said: “I understand the anger towards Sunak who has damaged the party almost beyond repair and all but guaranteed the majority of his MPs will lose their job next month.

“But it’s hard to muster much sympathy given that none of this would have happened without the complicity of a majority of the party and what is now unfolding was entirely predictable - indeed predicted.

“The hope is that when Sunak disappears off to California in a few weeks there are at least some decent MPs left around which to rebuild.”

However, in an interview with ITV, Sunak insisted he will not quit parliament if he is booted out of No.10.

Responding to Goldsmith’s claims he will move to America, he said: “It’s simply not true. I mean, it’s just simply not true.”