Bring back national service as remedy to extremism, disgraced Coulson tells Cameron

Former editor of the News of the World Andy Coulson © Neil Hall
Andy Coulson, the prime minister’s ex- communications chief, has urged David Cameron to make National Citizen Service (NCS) compulsory for British teens in a bid to combat the rise of extremism, following a five-month prison stint.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the former News of the World editor explained that mandatory national service would be instrumental in preventing vulnerable youth from being lured in by extremist ideology.

“You are less likely to damage or destroy something you played a part in building,” he wrote.

The NCS, which has been up and running in England since 2011, is a community-building program that encourages volunteering and social projects. Money for the program, which is part of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ initiative, came from the government’s counter-extremism Prevent budget.

Coulson praised the program, saying it sent a positive message to “British teenagers who are now mixing outside of their ethnic, class and income groups less than they have ever done” in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

“While bombs are being dropped abroad NCS is building bridges at home, providing crucial shared experiences at a crucial time of life among teenagers from all backgrounds,” Coulson wrote.

More than 200,000 16-year-olds have voluntarily joined the program. However, Coulson says the government must strengthen and expand the program as the threat of extremism looms large.

Speaking of his own time in HMP Belmarsh, Coulson said: “I can tell him that the risk to vulnerable, young male prisoners from all backgrounds is real. So, too, is the self-imposed segregation of some Muslim inmates who behave like a protection racket – offering safety for those young men, provided they attend Friday prayers, grow a beard and change their name.

“But a compulsory National Citizen Service would be the most significant and lasting legacy for a prime minister who, once out of office, should continue to be properly involved with it.”

Coulson resigned as Cameron’s director of communications in 2011, saying allegations of his involvement in the News of the World phone hacking scandal had made it impossible for him to continue in his job. In 2014, he was found guilty of conspiracy to intercept voicemails and sentenced to eighteen months in prison, of which he served five.