Aktion in Südkorea, 2015. Foto: Connection e.V.

Aktion in Südkorea, 2015. Foto: Connection e.V.

Pacifists pledge to resist national service, if scheme is implemented

Press Release

by Peace Pledge Union

(27.05.2024) British pacifists have said they will refuse to join or in any way support the military under the Tories’ plans to reintroduce national service, if the scheme is ever implemented.

In the first major announcement of his election campaign, Rishi Sunak said a future Tory government would introduce the scheme in 2025, forcing 18-year-olds either to join the military for 12 months full-time or to work one weekend per month in their community with organisations such as fire, police and the NHS.

Labour have called the scheme ‘unfunded’ and criticised the Tories for cutting military spending, without raising any objection to the principle of reintroducing national service.

Members of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK’s leading pacifist organisation, have lambasted the plans, pointing out that they are designed to whip up support for the armed forces and an increasingly aggressive UK foreign policy.

Although the Tories claim that the plan does not amount to conscription, the PPU has accused them of attempting to introduce ‘conscription by stealth’.

The PPU has pledged to resist national service and to support future conscientious objectors, warning the government that the scheme would be met by waves of resistance from young people.

In anticipation of the backlash, the home secretary James Cleverly has said 18-year-olds who refuse to participate would not be sent to prison.

Earlier in the year, the head of the British Army called for a ’citizen army’ to prepare for a future land war with Russia and referred to the British public as a ‘pre-war generation’, provoking speculation about a return of conscription.

At the time, the Tory government were quick to deny any possibility that conscription would be reintroduced.

Geoff Tibbs from the PPU said: “Sunak’s announcement signals a dangerous shift in politics. Conscription has quickly turned from a distant historical memory into a very real possiblity, which we need to resist at every turn.”

He added: “This is a transparent attempt by the government to whip up everyday militarism and nationalist fervour in support of their reckless foreign policy, ahead of the general election. With the UK’s military spending and nuclear arsenal growing fast, this move sends another provocative signal to Russia and China, which can only make the world more unsafe.’

The PPU, founded in 1934, has opposed conscription in the UK and around the world for ninety years. Many of its original members were conscientious objectors in the First World War and many went on to become conscientious objectors in World War Two.

As the British section of War Resisters’ International (WRI), the PPU stands in solidarity with people refusing to serve in the military in the many countries worldwide where conscription is in force, including in Russia, Ukraine and Israel.

The PPU recently marked International Conscientious Objectors’ Day (15th May), along with many other peace organisations in the UK and around the world, to raise awareness of the struggles of conscientious objectors and to send them a message of solidarity.


1. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) is one of the UK’s oldest pacifist organisations, founded in 1934. PPU members pledge not to support war and to work for the removal of the causes of war. The PPU’s work includes promoting peacebuilding, challenging militarism, providing educational resources on peace and distributing the white poppy in memory of all victims of war. The Peace Pledge Union is not linked to any political party and PPU members include supporters of several parties and none. Please see https://www.ppu.org.uk.

2. The Peace Pledge Union is the British section of War Resisters’ International and works with peace campaigners and conscientious objectors around the world to resist all war and militarism.

3. International Conscientious Objectors’ Day (15th May) is marked around the world every year on May 15th with ceremonies, protests and vigils, particularly in countries in which military conscription is in force such as Russia, Israel, Colombia, Turkey and Finland. For more information please see www.CO-Day.org

4. For more information, please contact Geoff Tibbs at media@ppu.org.uk or on 07898 686030.

Peace Pledge Union, Press Release: Pacifists pledge to resist national service, if scheme is implemented. May 25, 2024. https://www.ppu.org.uk/news/pacifists-pledge-resist-national-service-if-scheme-implemented

Keywords:    ⇒ Civil Society   ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Militarization   ⇒ Non Violence   ⇒ Pazifism   ⇒ Peace Movement   ⇒ United Kingdom