Kirk Master first came to political prominence last year when his electoral leaflet had him boasting about all the “new homes” Labour had created by upcycling a hostel that used to cater to the needs of the homeless! Since then, he has had a very eventful inauguration in the Labour Party.
To provide a quick summary of Mr Master’s last year in politics: in May 2015 he was elected as Labour’s councillor for Stoneygate ward, and just one month later he was promoted onto Sir Peter Soulsby’s mayoral team, as Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhood Services (June 12, Leicester Mercury). The following month, Mr Master witnessed first-hand the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while holidaying in Turkey (August 5, Mercury). But later in the same month, when the undemocratic coup was launched against the leader of his own party, Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Master remained studiously silent, even though his bosses (city Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and Deputy Mayor Rory Palmer) had vocally backed Corbyn’s ouster!
Since then, Mr Master has been implementing Tory austerity for the Labour Party, which hasn’t been too fruitful for the people of Leicester. With an inspired turn-of-phrase, Mr Master even managed to refer to a Council consultation to sell-off or demolish a “series of community and youth centres in Leicester” as an effort to “deliver services in a more cost effective way” (March 2, Mercury).
Council Unison representative Gary Garner promptly called out Mr Master’s duplicitous politicking. “It’s not a proper consultation,” Mr Garner said, before going on to explain that:
“They’ve already made their minds up. The council says a lot of these buildings are underused but they have been running them down. There are not enough youth facilities in the city as it is but still more will be closed.” (March 2, Mercury)
Mr Master still had more cuts to make, and the latest ‘consultation’ being overseen by his good self revolves around plans to close/defund libraries, children’s centres, and our adventure playgrounds. However, not content with this already burdensome workload, Mr Master has just accepted an additional job as Leicestershire’s first deputy police and crime commissioner.
Current police and crime commissioner, Willy Bach, pointed out that Mr Master had “a unique understanding of policing requirements,” adding that “in his former role at the Home Office [Mr Master] was the national lead for juveniles.” (September 16, Mercury)
Part of his previous work experience, that probably helped lead to his rapid-fire promotion, was his active promotion of the Government’s regressive and arguably very racist anti-terror PREVENT program, which Mr Master studiously undertook through his work with the Youth Justice Board.
So given Mr Master’s prior work on contributing towards the demonisation of Muslims through the Government’s PREVENT program, it is ironic that Mr Master is an advisory board member for the ‘Kick it Out’ anti-racism initiative. Although that said, this footballing-related campaign is widely considered to be ineffective in actually confronting racism in a meaningful way.
More worrying is Mr Master’s role as the chairman of the Leicester’s well-known Nirvana Football Club – which is related to his earlier life experience as a youth trainee at West Bromwich Albion FC. Nevertheless the troubling aspect of Mr Master’s connection to such as a progressive football club, is that Nirvana has a long and proud history of being involved in public campaigns against cuts to local youth services; a world removed from Mr Master’s present interests of scapegoating of Muslims and facilitating the closure of local youth services.
In fact, Nirvana Football Club started life as the city’s Red Star youth club and their associated football team, in an earlier incarnation affectionately called themselves ‘the Red Star mob’. Importantly, one of Red Star’s primary aims was “to take politics out of being a spectator sport,” and so when — during the 1980s — their premises were threatened with closure by a Labour Council led by Peter Soulsby, the Red Stars fought back with a famous occupation of their premises. This act of political defiance was also combined with an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to unseat Peter Soulsby from his then seat of influence in the Spinney Hill ward.
If anything, Mr Master’s rapid rise to power under Sir Peter Soulsby’s tutelage illustrates rather well why Jeremy Corbyn’s ongoing efforts to democratise and revitalise the grassroots of the Labour Party are so critical. It should come as little surprise, considering Mr Master’s dubious track record in proudly acknowledging that he “wasn’t political” until “a couple of years ago”. Not something that should really inspire too much confidence in his ability to act as a strong advocate for working-class politics.
The people of Leicester deserve better Labour Party representatives than the like of Mr Master and Sir Peter Soulsby. Leicester desperately needs principled socialist politicians who can contribute towards building a Labour Party that truly fights for working-class people. A good start would be representatives who refuse to carry out cuts to local services.