Michael Caine behind Tories’ ‘national citizen service’

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron has laid out his plans for a “non-military national service”, with what some Tories consider would become the crown jewels of the party’s first term in government.

In his first major press conference of the election campaign, Mr Cameron outlined plans for a two-month summer scheme which would see 16-year-olds involved in outdoor activities and community service.

“The national citizen service has the power to transform future generations and help transform our nation as a result,” Mr Cameron said.

“Frankly I can’t wait for it to start.”

Sketch: Cameron gets Carter

Tories hope the plan would help improve community cohesion, by forcing teenagers from a variety of different backgrounds to mingle together. It would involve both residential and at-home components and would be delivered by independent charities, social enterprises and businesses.

Actor Michael Caine endorsed the proposals, referring to his upbringing in the deprived Elephant and Castle area of London – and his miserable experience doing military national experience.

“I’m a representative of all those youngsters who have been forgotten in this country,” he said.

“You have now a very hard core of people who we’ve really got to save. That’s what attracts me about this,” he said.

The party says it would fund the scheme from a current, supposedly failing, community cohesion scheme. It has raised £2 million in opposition to fund pilot schemes in London, Wales and the north-west.

“The point about this scheme is we’re not publishing a green paper with our fingers crossed… we’re publishing it knowing it already works,” Mr Cameron added.

But children’s secretary Ed Balls hit back at the plans this afternoon.

“Another glitzy David Cameron launch can’t hide the fact that this is yet another spending commitment from the Tories with the flakiest of funding solutions,” he said.

“All we saw today is a flaky plan to cut the Prevent programme which is a key part of Contest, the UK’s counter terrorism strategy.”

The Lib Dems were similarly unimpressed with Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg’s chief of staff, suggesting the Tories were continuing to make unfunded promises ahead of polling day.

“The Conservatives are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think they can provide a national citizen srvice on the cheap.

“Once again the Tories have made an enormous spending commitment without the foggiest idea of how they’re going to pay for it.”