Socialist Worker

Peter Kilfoyle's resignation shows even the loyal are turning from Blair

Issue No. 1682

THE RESIGNATION as junior defence minister of Peter Kilfoyle, an enthusiastic supporter of 'modernisation', is a sign of the deep crisis engulfing New Labour. Kilfoyle's decision follows Tony Blair's worst ever week, when the press was full of headlines about Labour's betrayals.

Peter Kilfoyle, a Liverpool MP, is far from being a left winger. He played a key role in Labour's shift to the right. He started his Labour Party career in Liverpool by enthusiastically witch hunting socialists in Militant in the 1980s. He won his parliamentary seat after a dirty campaign against socialist Lesley Mahmood in the 1991 Walton by - election.

In recent years Kilfoyle has been a loyal supporter of Blair. But now even he cannot stomach some parts of the Blairite project. His friends and colleagues say he resigned because New Labour has neglected its traditional working class supporters. Kilfoyle's motives are a mixed bag. Some reports suggest that as well as being angry about issues like poverty, Kilfoyle quite wrongly sees issues like the repeal of the anti - gay Section 28 as alienating working class support.

Nevertheless his resignation is a sign of how, from top to bottom, Blair's betrayals are ripping apart the Labour Party. Blair hoped he could turn the Labour Party into a US - style Democratic Party governing on behalf of big business and marginalising the trade unions.

But his 'project' has created a state of civil war inside the party, and unease even amongst those who believed Labour had to move to the right to get elected. Kilfoyle's resignation is merely a pale reflection of the anger felt by millions of Labour voters. They feel a sense of utter betrayal at New Labour's failure to deliver on everything-from the NHS to Jack Straw's desire to free Chile's General Pinochet. If that anger is mobilised it could present a real challenge to Blair's right wing policies which are creating misery for millions.

New threat to peace in Northern Ireland

THE PEACE process was under threat again in Northern Ireland as Socialist Worker went to press. Unionists, the Tories and most of the press have pinned all the blame on the failure of the IRA to decommission. This is a demand backed up by Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson. But the Ulster Unionists have used the decommissioning issue as a hammer to smash the peace process.

A huge section of the Unionists hate the idea of sharing power with parties which represent Catholics in Northern Ireland, and want to see the complete surrender of the IRA. The Unionists-and their supporters in the press, Tory party and government-never talk of decommissioning Loyalist weapons. This is despite the fact that Loyalist paramilitary attacks against Catholics are continuing on a weekly basis.

Neither do they demand the decommissioning of the British army or the disarming of Northern Ireland's sectarian RUC police force. Yet these two forces are responsible for violence and repression against Catholics.

Just this week British Paratrooper Lee Clegg, who shot down two Catholic teenagers, was cleared of all charges. There has been no justice for the family of Robert Hamill, the Catholic man murdered by Loyalists in Portadown in 1997 while the RUC looked on. No RUC officer will face charges.

It is because of this injustice that many Catholics oppose decomissioning. Since Mandelson became Northern Ireland secretary he has tried hard to meet the Unionists' demands. That could now mean jeopardising the whole peace process and destroying the hopes of both ordinary Catholics and Protestants.

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What We Think
Sat 5 Feb 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1682
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