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Say No to Conscription: PPU Statement on Army Chief's Call for a 'Citizen Army'

Troop and police officer on street

Say No to Conscription: PPU Statement on Army Chief's Call for a 'Citizen Army'

General Sir Patrick Sanders' call for a 'citizen army', raising the prospect of military conscription, reflect the increasingly aggressive militarism of the UK political establishment, as well as the broader rise of everyday militarism in the UK.

Members of the Peace Pledge Union have responded with alarm and anger to Sanders’ speech, which advocated preparations for a land war with Russia and referred to the British public as a 'pre-war generation.'

Although Sanders did not explicity call for conscription, his comments have transformed conscription overnight from a distant historical memory into a policy position pushed by militarists and right-wing commentators.

Number 10 and the Ministry of Defence have been quick to deny any possibility of a return to conscription. However Sanders' speech remains symptomatic of several related developments:

  • The speech echoes an increasingly aggressive UK foreign policy and escalating military rhetoric. The UK government is committed to skyrocketing military spending and expanding the UK's nuclear arsenal, yet military leaders like Sanders accuse them of not going far enough. The government's refusal to back a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza and the attacks on Yemen are the latest dramatic examples of a reckless foreign policy that only leads to more instability and violence.
  • Sanders' comments reflect the real volatility of our current moment, even as they inflame it. The wars in Ukraine and in Israel and Palestine are becoming increasingly regional conflicts, bringing into play global dynamics and staggering risks, including the risk of nuclear escalation. The focus of UK foreign policy should be on deescalation and peacebuilding, but the government is doing the opposite, pouring arms into to Ukraine and backing Israel. This militarist approach provides no answers to the real security problems facing the UK and the world, and ensures the return of cold war politics. Talking up war with Russia, as Sanders and others have done, makes war with Russia more, not less, likely.
  • The fact that military leaders can advocate militarism so openly reflects the growth of everyday militarism. Since the early 2000s, military celebrations, recruitment and influence in politics have become increasingly visible in British society. Armed Forces Day, introduced in 2009, increased spending on cadet forces and “military ethos” projects in schools are all examples of everyday militarism, which has been used by successive governments to increase support for the armed forces and counteract dissent against wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Sanders' comments attempt to militarise society further - but they build on the deliberate entrenchment of everyday militarism in recent years.
  • The UK military frequently fail to meet their recruitment targets. Politicians and military leaders propagate the myth that troop numbers are dangerously low. Sanders' comments are partly scaremongering about troop numbers. In reality, UK troop numbers are not low, ranking high in global comparisons. (There are more armed forces personnel in the UK than firefighters and paramedics combined.)

Say No to Conscription

Military conscription is a violation of our basic freedoms and human rights, and must be resisted at every turn.

The Peace Pledge Union, founded in 1934, is old enough to remember resisting conscription in the UK. Many of our original members were conscientious objectors in the First World War and many went on to become conscientious objectors in World War Two. We continue to stand in solidarity with people resisting conscription around the world - in Russia, Ukraine and Israel among many other places - as the British section of War Resisters' International (WRI).

Peaceful people in the UK and Russia have more in common with each other than with the British or Russian governments. We need to support Russian peace activists, not label the Russian people as our enemies. We stand with the Movement of Conscientious Objectors in Russia, the Russian section of WRI.

Now that the prospect of military conscription has again been raised in the UK, we urge people to become conscientious objectors to the very idea of conscription.

The first step towards conscription is the deepening of everyday militarism. We urge our members and supporters to challenge all forms of militarism on our streets and in our communities, and to speak out against the growing military influence on public debate. You can find out more about our resistance to everyday militarism in public spaces, schools, politics and elsewhere at

Learn more about conscientious objection to military conscription at