An unexpected weekend of inspiration in darkest Staffordshire…

I’m on my way home from a weekend away as you read this, having spent the weekend in the fringes of the Winter ALDC Kickstart event. I say ‘fringes’ because I didn’t actually participate in any of the training, wasn’t either a mentor or being mentored, and indeed only attended the dinner and part of the final plenary.

So, how could I have been inspired by an event I was barely at?

It’s a funny thing, but being around a group of people, some of whom I’ve known for quite a long time, some of whom are complete strangers, but all of whom have come to hone their campaigning skills, is strangely impressive.

Campaigners from as far away as Swansea, Newcastle and North Hertfordshire, gathered in a former BT training centre for two days of intensive training, led by the ALDC staff and a squadron of experienced volunteers, all eager to convey the knowledge and experienced gleaned over years on the local government frontline.

In addition, there was training for agents and a future leaders programme, and it was interesting, and very encouraging, to see how many younger people were amongst the gathered throng – it was the largest ever Kickstart event, a point that was made quite subtly throughout the weekend.

The weekend was topped and tailed by the two Presidents, Party President Sal Brinton on the Friday evening, and newly-elected ALDC Honorary President, Ros Scott on the Sunday lunchtime, both of whom had served as County Councillors, first elected in 1993, a year in which the Conservative Party, riven over Europe and in the process of crashing the economy, melted down across England, losing all but one County, Buckinghamshire.

In between, attendees were entertained by the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jane Dodds, who spoke eloquently about events in Wales and the importance of being genuine.

I did notice one other thing, in that a number of my former Young Liberal colleagues from the late eighties and early nineties were around, all of them having established themselves as serious players in local government. Is it a coincidence that they’re all women?…

But what did I learn? Well, I already knew that campaigns can be hard work, but I was reminded that the more efficient your campaign, the more you can achieve. That means using IT to best effect, targeting your effort effectively and honing your message. And, whilst you may already get that, ALDC can help you to do it better.

I was also reminded that, as a Liberal Democrat, you’re never really alone. There are lots of people who, if you ask, will share their knowledge and experience, or point the way towards someone who can help you.

And, finally, the earlier you start, the earlier you can put your skills and knowledge to good effect. And for those of you with elections in 2020, you might want to seriously think about putting the dates for next summer’s Kickstart event (28-30 June) into the diary and book a place for your team.

* Mark Valladares isn’t really a campaigner. He does, however, understand that without campaigners, being a Party bureaucrat is rather a pointless exercise…

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Stone isn’t in the Black Country (it is in Staffordshire).

    You and Ros would be welcome back to the Black Country anytime though I am sure.

  • You should try in oatcakes made in Stone. Very delicious !!!

  • Main town south of Stone is Stafford, population 65,000 and growing, which is still 17 miles north of Wolverhampton, indeed Stone is part of Stafford Borough Council. South Staffordshire Council lies between Stafford and Wolverhampton. Best commuting time by rail Stafford to Wolverhampton is 13 – 14 minutes either way. My
    daughter frequently catches the 08.01 in the morning for that journey and usually has to stand.

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