The Beatles ‘would not have existed’ if fab four had been forced to do National Service

Rishi Sunak’s controversial plan to reintroduce National Service for school leavers has hit more criticisms after it was revealed it was out of tune with some of Britain’s greatest cultural successes, Labour has claimed.

It has emerged that both The Beatles and Rolling Stones, who transformed music around the world in the 1960s, probably would never have started up if Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and others had been forced to National Service.

The revelation has raised questions about whether Mr Sunak’s plans could hurt the UK’s future young music stars’ opportunities.

In 2022, Sir Paul McCartney said: "We were the generation that grew up fully expecting to go in the National Service. And then the second we qualified, it was as if God came down...and said, ‘You don’t have to go in.’ Without that, there wouldn’t have been ‘The Beatles’.

Rishi Sunak – who told Sky News in November 2022 that The Beatles were his favourite band – announced on Saturday that he wants to require every young person in Britain to enlist in the Army for a full year as soon as they turn 18, or spend one weekend a month until age 19 completing compulsory community service activities in their local areas.

The Beatles may never have got together if they had to do National Service (PA) (PA Wire)
The Beatles may never have got together if they had to do National Service (PA) (PA Wire)

Paul McCartney was 18 years and two months old when The Beatles started their legendary tour to Hamburg in August 1960, playing 104 consecutive nights at the Indra and Kaiserkeller clubs. His bandmate George Harrison turned 18 a month before the second tour began in April 1961.

Under Rishi Sunak’s proposals, The Beatles duo would never have been able to take part in those breakthrough gigs in Germany, and would have been forced instead to spend one weekend in four doing community work in Liverpool instead.

Not content with wrecking just one of Britain’s greatest cultural exports, Sunak’s plan would also have destroyed The Beatles’ great rivals, The Rolling Stones.

Speaking to the BBC in 2016, Stones guitarist Keith Richards said: "My generation, you grew up automatically expecting to go National Service at 18… there was no reason to suppose it was going to change but then, my luck, right on the cusp, they knocked it on the head.

"And so suddenly this horizon opens up. These two years that you thought [you’d be] peeling spuds in Catterick or something, suddenly open up with this vista of possibilities. If I’d have had to go in the army there’d have been no Rolling Stones and probably no Beatles either."

The Rolling Stones were spared National Service in the early 1960s (AP)
The Rolling Stones were spared National Service in the early 1960s (AP)

Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were both aged 18 when The Rolling Stones played their first gig under that name at the Marquee Club in London in July 1962, following their chance encounter at Dartford Railway Station in October 1961, which led to the formation of the band.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow paymaster general, said: "Not only would Rishi Sunak’s desperate, last-ditch manifesto pledge cost billions more than he has said, we now discover it would have destroyed both The Beatles and The Stones as well – even Yoko Ono couldn’t manage that.  No wonder voters are telling Sunak it’s time he took the long and winding road to California.”

The criticism follows questions about the cost of the scheme set by Mr Sunak at £2.5 billion and the source of funding from the levelling up funds. Defence chiefs have also said it will harm morale and there have been questions over whether the army has the training capacity needed for 30,000 recruits.

Added to that tory ministers openly argued over the plan.

However, Mr Sunak has insisted that the scheme will “help keep kids out of trouble” as well as “give them some structure”.

He said: “I think it will be really brilliant for young people to have this rite of passage that they go through with everything that it teaches them andjust keeps them out of trouble.

“I’ve talked to so many parents worried about what their kids are doing in the evenings, at the weekends. So I think this will be wonderful for young people, but I also think it'll be great for our country."

The scheme would offer school leavers a choice of a year in the military paid or doing community work at weekends.