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National service is a gimmick, so where is Sunak’s actual vision?

Well, we didn’t have national service on our election bingo card, either.

Cast your mind back all of six days, and you’ll remember Rishi Sunak standing on the steps of Downing Street touting his plan for Britain, the foundation of which was economic stability on the way back. Vote Tory, get a growing economy, was the crux. And so the first policy? Wiping out vast swathes of 18 year olds from the labour market, squeezing the already talent-short hospitality and retail industries a little further.

Whatever the merits of Sunak’s half-military, half-volunteering national service plans, it is a distraction from the real issues that should be the north star of this election fight. Growing the economy at more than two per cent a year, tackling our inefficient public services, rebuilding infrastructure in a way that doesn’t either bankrupt the country or become a metaphor for national decline. Nothing works in a country if the economy doesn’t work.

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We said last week that an election campaign would give Rishi Sunak – whose team privately complain has not had a fair hearing from the public thanks to the mistakes of his predecessor, and indeed her predecessor – the chance to be heard loud and clear. And other than a gimmick to get school leavers picking up begonias in the middle of feature roundabouts once a month, we’ve still heard absolutely nothing resembling a clear plan for the country. The most his ministers have managed is sharing badly-edited clips of Keir Starmer speeches on social media. It is all so… average.

Of course, many on the Conservative benches were surprised by the arrival of an election, as surprised as the public were. They perhaps might have assumed lots of work in the background, a policy rollout ready to go, retail offers on tax and spend and growing the economy. So far they, and we, remain all ears.