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The BBC's Carole Walker reports
"Friends say he was becoming disillusioned"
 real 28k

The Labour Party's Louise Elman
"Great strides have already been made"
 real 28k

Monday, 31 January, 2000, 09:09 GMT
Defence minister quits

kilfoyle Peter Kilfoyle had thought of resigning for some time

Defence Minister Peter Kilfoyle has resigned from the government, saying he did not believe the job made the best use of his talents.

Peter Kilfoyle stepped down from his post as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defence.

A source close to the MP stressed that the move was not motivated by any personal problems.

I have concluded that I should return to the backbenches.
Peter Kilfoyle
But the BBC understands Mr Kilfoyle may also have become disillusioned about the party's direction.

He is said to be concerned that the leadership's attempt to stay in favour with middle-class southern voters could prove to be at the expense of traditional Labour supporters.

Mr Kilfoyle, 53, MP for Liverpool Walton, reportedly wants to become more involved in issues local to the north west of England.

In a letter to Prime Minster Tony Blair, he said he believed he would serve his constituents better as a backbench MP.

'Fresh challenges'

The letter read: "Having reflected long and hard on how I can best use my political energies in the interests of my constituents and the Labour Party, I have concluded that I should return to the backbenches."

He said the new millennium brings fresh challenges, particularly within the regions of England and the heartlands of Labour.

I am sure we will work together closely in the future.
Tony Blair
He wrote: "These are not demands with which one can easily engage within the constraints of governmental office, no matter how junior that office might be."

In his letter of reply, Mr Blair said he knew Mr Kilfoyle had been thinking of resigning for some time.

He wrote: "I would like to say how much I value the work you have done as a Minister in both the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, and I am sure we will work together closely in the future."

No surprise

Mr Kilfoyle's government career included a spell as cabinet office minister under Jack Cunningham, Mr Blair's one-time "enforcer".

Steve Little, Mr Kilfoyle's constituency agent at the 1997 general election, said he was not surprised to hear that the MP was returning to the backbenches.

Mr Little said: "Peter was a very hardworking constituency MP and it was always his first priority to work for his constituents.

"He decided to enter the government because he was asked to but, given his track record as a constituency MP, I am not too surprised to hear he has resigned."

A source close to the MP said he was not about to become a vocal backbench critic of New Labour and its leadership. It was a "friendly departure".

Mayoral speculation

The source said: "He genuinely feels that sometimes being a minister can be pretty restrictive in terms of what he wants to talk about, and the things he wants to get involved in.

"He's very much a loyalist, you only have to look at his dealings with Militant to know that."

Mr Kilfoyle was regional organiser of the Merseyside Labour Party when it succeeded in expelling left-wing leader Derek Hatton, along with 25 other councillors, over a period of five years.

Political observers have speculated that Mr Kilfoyle might be interested in running for the post of elected mayor of Liverpool, should such an office be created.

'Unhappy in government'

While the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, Louise Ellman, said she thought Mr Kilfoyle had been unhappy in government for some time.

"I think he felt that being in government took him away from his local constituency, and he's certainly given that impression.

"I'm sorry that he's taken that decision, because I think it was good to have a strong Merseyside voice right in the centre of government."

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See also:
30 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Minister's resignation letter
02 Nov 98 |  UK Politics
Drive for electronic government stepped up
19 Oct 99 |  Guide to the UK Government
Ministry of Defence

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