Opinion: Nation’s campaigners kickstarted

ALDC Kickstart: Councillor @alexfoster in a feedback session with his local team

Yesterday saw the conclusion of ALDC’s annual training event Kickstart, designed for councillors and campaigners who are defending and targetting council seats at next year’s local elections.

Next year is a special year indeed, because in all probability the General Election will happen on the same day as local elections. Whilst this is nothing new, the councils that are facing election this time are not the councils that usually combine with a general election. Indeed, it’s likely to be the first time since 1979 that London Boroughs have held their elections at the same time as a General Election. We still don’t know for sure the two elections will be on the same day, but we do know for definite that there must be both local elections and a general election next year. For a list of councils facing election, see Keith Edkin’s Local Elections Trailer 2010.

In many ways I shouldn’t have been there as our council, in common with all but six East Midlands local authorities, doesn’t have local elections next year. But we had a tougher time in 2007 than we expected, faced with a local Labour party that had finally learned to campaign, and we know that that next time we do face elections we’re going to have an uphill battle. So we thought we’d take the opportunity to take a team to learn and hone their skills with 18 months to practice before we’ll need them for real.

We took large team, with a mix of elected and non-elected campaigners, and an even greater mix of history with the party, from over twenty years to barely two. And for over half the team, this was their first experience of a national-level Lib Dem event of any kind. During the weekend, several of them told me that they had been dreading the weekend as a completely new and scary experience, but by the end of the three days, all of us were, without exception, impressed by the training we’d received and how welcome we’d all been made to feel.

That training was a mix of formal, classroom learning with experienced tutors from around the country who have been at the sharp edge of Liberal Democrat campaigns; and private, group-specific mentoring with one person who was able to give very detailed feedback about the plans we already had, and areas where we might consider changing what we needed to do. And around all those were ample coffee and meal breaks that got us all talking to Lib Dems from other parts of the country. Those informal networking opportunities are almost as valuable as the planned training. I had a very interesting time talking to an Oldham councillor about their “Pothole Mole” scheme

The training happened in bunches of five, with over 20 individual sessions running. And for us, one of the best bits was sending the team to the four corners of the hotel to undertake very different sessions – and then bringing them all back again afterwards to compare notes and make plans for how we can use what we learned in our own wards. We’ve come home with a very long list of good ideas that should really help how we work.

Amongst those training sessions were two top notch e-campaigning seminars led by very familiar faces: m’colleagues Mark Pack and Helen Duffett had beetled up the motorway to brief dozens of eager e-wannabes (photo here!). And that included me, because for all the time I spend on the internet, I have still never sent a campaign email to member of the public. I am now much better briefed on that, and any day soon my new skills will be unleashed.

After two days of seminars the weekend culminated in a full plenary session bringing together nearly 200 attendees in one room for a final set of rousing contributions. We firstly heard from several different delegates who fed back what they had learned, and just what they’d be doing when they got back to their constituencies. Two contributions particularly stick in my mind: firstly the team from Woking, who have some good successes to trumpet, including an amazing set of recent recruitment stats from a lively character who, when he wasn’t doorknocking was cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. And secondly, new PPC Daisy Cooper, who was selected only weeks ago and is facing a battle with John Gummer. Daisy really struck me as “one to watch” – she will go far I am sure.

After presentations from delegates, the weekend wound up with two closing speeches, the first from the party’s Campaigns Director Hilary Stephenson, with a healthy dose of realism about the Sisyphean tasks ahead of us – but also a clear message: we can win, but it will only happen with hard work and good planning. After Hilary, her Hazel Grove colleague Andrew Stunnell MP closed the conference with a speech that combined good advice with good humour and sent us all away buzzing.

The proof of the pudding will of course be in the eating next year. ALDC’s tracking data shows that ALDC members are much more likely to win elections than non-members – and that Kickstart attendees still more likely than that. My team is already considering who we’ll send to next year’s event, and there is no question in our mind we got value for our money. If you’re a Lib Dem councillor – or you want to become one – join ALDC today, and I look forward to seeing you at Kickstart 2010!

Tweets on 2009-11-30

  • I just generated my #TweetCloud out of 3 months of my tweets. Top three words: post, time, blog – http://w33.us/z52 #
  • SPANG!! – WITWOO!! Ah, the sweet sounds of being home again. http://tr.im/G7BY #
  • Ooh, the 4OD thingie is serving up Come Dine With Me from Torbay with Lib Dem activist Chris Ward. Eek. #
  • Are those… /non-stick ramekins/? #
  • I think I might be about to be the first person to use the word "sisyphean" on @libdemvoice. #

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Jo Swinson’s video from the UN

Last Saturday at the Bloggers’ Unconference, our final interview of the day was with Jo Swinson MP – which was particularly kind of her, since she’d flown back from New York the day before, and must have been jet-lagged.

Falling at the end of the day, the discussion we had with Jo was one of the most informal of the day, but was all the better for that. Her enthusiasm for finding new ways of communicating really shone through, and she talked to us about creating the video below. In particular, she was really keen to show us her new Flip video camera, which is extremely portable and can be used by just the one person, without needing fancy lights, an off-camera microphone or an extra person working as camera operator.

Jo used her Flip to make a series of mini videos about the work she was doing at the UN, and quite simply to give some basic impressions of what visiting the UN buildings in New York are like. The buildings are iconic, but not particularly fancy. Working in the main office block is like working in any slightly old fashioned tower block. She also takes time out of her schedule to show us a moving statue rescued from the rubble of Hiroshima – on the face, undamaged and intact; on the rear, scraped raw by the heat and debris of the nuclear explosion.

If you follow LDV’s twitter feed, you may also have seen this message promoting a short audio interview with Helen Duffett asking Jo the questions.

Tweets on 2009-11-29

  • Eek. Being given model colour leaflets which feature the late Cllr Neil Trafford. #
  • @markpack that has to be one of the more complicated ways to send email to yourself. in reply to markpack #
  • @kayray not much eating on a goose either, you need a big one to feed a family. #
  • Disenamourment #neologism #lorelyburt #kickstart #
  • Leaving the #kickstart jollity behind and getting an early night and some personal decompression time. #
  • Looking enviously at the sofa at the other end of my hotel room and wishing I could sit on it and read. Sadly there's no light there. #
  • Hotel towels. I always put mine on the rail, happy to reuse and save planet, and they always go and replace them just the same. #
  • Just had one of those phone conversations that's long enough to make and drink two cups of tea and totally exhaust a phone battery. #
  • @alexfoster nice phonecall, that is :) #
  • Have stayed up late finishing Julie & Julia when I should have been getting an early night. Now have strange urge to bone a duck. #
  • Joining a silent room of people watching a trainer struggle to make a projector connect to a laptop. #
  • @mithomas20 many happys! in reply to mithomas20 #
  • Daisy Cooper #RisingStar #OneToWatch #kickstart #

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Tweets on 2009-11-28

  • Kitten hunting mousey – video http://flic.kr/p/7ixPL6 #
  • Packing the various analgesics, decongestants and prophlylactics necessary for a Lib Dem weekend. #
  • Traffic pretty hairy on M1. #
  • Yay, the Now Show! #
  • Deciding whether to order anything from the pillow menu. #
  • Feeling surprisingly ropey this morning. Can't possibly be hungover. And irritatingly have "Don't stop me now" by Queen on brain. #
  • @helenduffett not holding court! Sharing best practice collaboratively. #
  • Aldc kickstart: @helenduffett and @markpack holding court on email http://flic.kr/p/7iQF7p #

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Tweets on 2009-11-27

  • View of the Xmas lights from inside the Council House.. http://flic.kr/p/7itg1D #
  • Word of the day: sparge. As in "we'll have to temporarily shut down while we sparge the boilers." #
  • "Labour selects sex row woman" ? Oh, how unedifying a headline :( http://tr.im/FTdp #
  • Come to Nottingham in 2010! (It's GOTTA be better than flying Easyjet to Tel Aviv!) http://tr.im/FTfy #
  • @markpack @helenduffett I feel a new round of mugs coming on http://tr.im/FTh9 #
  • <- has taken 11/12ths of a year to eat three quarters of a Christmas cake. #
  • @rfenwick is he staff or suicidal? #
  • @ianvisits don't they have an embargo or something? #
  • Chip pan fire – Nottingham University, Friday 27th at 11, George Green Library; Burning down model house: Nottingham Trent SU, 2.30pm #
  • Kitten hunting mousey http://flic.kr/p/7ixPL6 #

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Tweets on 2009-11-26

  • Oh, my goodness, *how* many Lib Dem Act emails?! #
  • Read three articles at random on stevepavlina.com and see if you agree with me that the man is a >expletive deleted< #
  • @adventitiously Date *then* dinner? Cheap date, obv! in reply to adventitiously #
  • Local Action Group tonight. Will try not to cough on too many residents. #
  • Hearing about the horrors of the King George V Playing Fields Wifi Jacker. #
  • Advent collandar http://tr.im/FNCx #
  • OK, yes, Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody has quality jokes all the way through it. http://tr.im/FNFM #
  • Finally catching up with Dr Who. OMG! I'll never eat carrots again! #
  • @chriskeating @jamesmcgraw (don't) Tell me what happens! #
  • @NCClols putting two and two together with your last blog :) congrats #
  • Happy birthday, Tina Turner, 70 today! #

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