Welsh Liberal Democrats’ success at the Royal Welsh Show

Its a truth universally acknowledged that…….there are no ‘ups’ with out ‘downs’, and we Welsh Lib Dems know more than others what ‘down’ feels like. Its crap, to put it bluntly. ‘Down’ is deep and its hard to dust your self off and start climbing up again.

So, its good to report that many of us Welsh Lib Dems are on cloud nine after an exhilarating 4 days at the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells. If you’ve never visited the Royal Welsh before, it’s the largest agricultural show in Europe, with a foot fall of about a quarter of a million. It is by far the largest event on the Welsh calendar and one which makes us proud. A great day out for the family and a celebration of the diversity and excellence of the agricultural sector in Wales and beyond. Wales at its very best!

The Welsh Lib Dems have had a stand at the show for ages, but last year we missed a beat and lost out. That may well have been a good thing: time to reflect on our losses and time to try a new trajectory. This year we returned with a vengeance! We had a plan, an excellent plot and a refreshing, slightly crazy concept.

I recall Sal Brinton saying at WLD conference last autumn that we need more humour in our campaigning, that we need to make campaigning fun and accessible. I’m happy to say that we’ve risen to that challenge and the results have been remarkable. More on that in a bit.

This year we planned a stall and campaign around our fantastic Cabinet Secretary Kirsty Williams and the education portfolio which she holds in Welsh Government. We were lucky to have the skills of a very talented volunteer who designed everything on the stand from its 14m long backdrop to its banners, flags and super cute EU-flag-Libby-animal stickers. We even ran a kiddies colouring in completion each day on the stand, which was surprisingly popular. It was in more of a hill billy theatre production than a political stand. We had straw bales to sit on and bunting festooned like a barn dance.

The whole show this year was geared towards young children and, surprise surprise, everyone loved it. We created a stand that was fun, inviting and definitely not stuffy and digitally designed corporate. What a pleasure it was to see a sun burned farmer walk off with a cute Libby/pony/EU flag sticker!There was a lot of laugher. Nearly 40 Welsh Lib Dems helped on the stall, ranging from the newest Newbies to former MPs and members of the Lords. Even Jane Dodds our brilliant and dynamic leader had her slot on the roster to zip up the marquee for the night. We were a team again and we worked effortlessly together. It felt very good.

On a serious note, we wanted to do two things:-to start reminding people that we are still very much alive and kicking and that we are the international, pro-EU party of Wales. Yes, we have to deal with Plaid nationalism, UKIP/Tory jingoistic nationalism and the isolationism of Corbyn’s Labour.

During our weekly street stalls in Carmarthenshire, we have worked out that if you can engage with children, by offering them a flag or a sticker, you get a chance to offer literature to parents, or even have a good chat with them. It’s simple, but it really works. We applied this principle to the Royal Welsh en masse and the huge surprise was that people loved it. Over the course of the 4 days, we handed out thousands of stickers and flags, a spoof Rees-Mogg 50 Guinea flyer and even managed to get out about 5000 People’s Vote leaflets.

The biggest lesson learned is that we are no longer the toxic party. The coalition years are history. People respect us for our decency, our values and our steadfastness in the face of the daily Brexit tornado.

Star of the show was most certainly the Brexitometer. People loved being able to participate and to share their views. We took 2500 coloured dots to show and ran out early on day 4.

So here in Wales, we now have a core team of members feeling upbeat and energised to take a bit of this magic to the local agricultural shows which punctuate the summer holidays. To quote a senior Welsh Lib Dem….”In over 40 years of attending the Royal Welsh, I have never been so proud of the Welsh Lib Dems”. Lets build on this success and spread it across the country. There has never been a more important time to be a liberal in Wales and to be seen to be a liberal. We are the self sacrificing patriots, not the nationalists or the Corbynites.

And finally, to all our talented, energetic and passionate new members, we need you now, more than ever. Please step forward. Don’t be afraid to challenge old thinking. Be bold. Offer us new ideas and make sure your voices are being heard. This show would never have happened without the drive, vision and new thinking of our Welsh Lib Dem Newbies. Onwards and upwards.

* Hilton Marlton is the Welsh Lib Dem rep on Federal People Development Committee

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Jul '18 - 3:39pm

    That backdrop is amazing! I want a duvet cover like that:-)

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jul '18 - 4:11pm

    BBC tv Countryfile showed a farmer who was buying Welsh lamb and selling it to London restaurants at premium prices. She has been doing so for decades.

  • This article, correctly so, highlights that this a wonderful Welsh event and has a wonderful place within Europe. It also makes comment on having to deal with Welsh nationalism, but to be honest I can see this article appearing on a Plaid website as Plaid are proudly Welsh and European also.

    Perhaps one difference is that you made no comment on that advertising provided throughout the event by the UK government highlighted British’ness only rather than Welsh’ness – is that the self-sacrificing behaviour mentioned? It is a worry for some people that once we leave the EU (if we do) that funding to Celtic nations isn’t at least maintained by Boris and the like who have always cared more about their own career, or others who care more about London/England than the UK and that this becomes how political policy is created going forward.

    Just a though that as the party rebuilds in Wales as wonderfully Welsh, wonderfully British and wonderfully European that on the biggest issue of current times it can find plenty of support across parties in Wales.

  • Lorna Stirling 30th Jul '18 - 11:40am

    Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. We will be at Turriff Show this weekend with Willie Rennie.

  • Gwyn Williams 30th Jul '18 - 1:02pm

    Thank you to Hilton, the team from Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and everybody who helped from all over Wales from the towns as well as the rural area. We have never had such a turnout of Liberals or Liberal Democrats before at the Royal Welsh Show. It is even more amazing when you consider that we have so few staff and so much was done by volunteers.

  • Well, H.
    Brilliantly written.
    Sorry I was not able to be there. I missed out, but you had plenty of helpers.
    A great success. The only way is up!

  • Peter Price 1st Aug '18 - 9:51am

    Hilton, you have built on your success in creating such an inspiring stall and building your team by describing the key elements so as to enable others to ‘plough the same furrow’. You are truly a ‘people person’. Well done!

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