Five Bromley members went to ALDC’s Kickstart weekend on 7 July and this is their report back.
All 5 are active members in Bromley’s campaign to get Liberal Democrat Councillors elected to Bromley Council in May 2018. At the moment there are none. Mike, Rich, Allan and Julie are approved candidates and are waiting to be assigned to their target wards; Helen helps lead our very active Social Media group.
The weekend started with dinner – a good start to any conference, and the food was excellent throughout the conference with plenty of choice. We then met our mentor – Steve Jolly – who worked with us as a team over the weekend. He talked us through our campaign plans, skills sets, gaps in our knowledge and helped us plan what sessions to attend during the weekend. Which was useful as there were so many to choose from we could not cover them all. We worked through a campaign schedule, analysis of skills and skill gaps and some vital key performance indicators.
Friday evening had unexpected bonus of a Q&A session with Vince Cable – what a great way to start our weekend!
Following Steve’s guidance over the next two days we attended sessions on
- Getting Your Message Right
- Understanding Your Data
- Community Campaigning
- Building your Candidate Brand
- Winning the Postal Vote
- Campaigning with Video
- Advance Fund Raising
- Recruiting Volunteers
All the sessions were useful in different ways, sometimes just reinforcing that what we were already doing was along the right lines and at other times pointing us in a completely different direction. For example it had never occurred to any of us to run a GOTV for postal voters separate to the polling day activities. Obvious of course but it takes sessions like these to highlight gaps in our plan. And of course we learned completely new skills too, plus we picked up masses of ideas just chatting with other much more experienced LibDem members during the sessions.
By the time we rolled out of our last mentor session on Saturday at 6 p.m. we had to rush to get ready for the formal dinner in the restaurant, and several of us were feeling that we should just go to bed (it had been a long albeit valuable day!) Fortunately, we persevered, and had a thoroughly enjoyable, memorable and slightly inebriated evening. Greeted with glasses of champagne, we had an excellent 3 course meal with plenty of wine followed by the inevitable fund-raising games. Highlight of the evening was a speech by the wonderful breath of fresh air that is Layla Moran. Not the kind of speech you normally hear from our MPs but all the better for it. That was then followed by some unashamed selfie-seeking, a thorough testing of the range of wine on offer, lots of networking with other LibDem members, and finally a collapse into bed at about 1 a.m. (or later for some of us).
We had our final mentor session on Sunday morning (starting at 9 a.m., merciless scheduling), another training session and a final plenary session where some of the groups made a presentation to the rest of the conference attendees about their experience at the weekend. We were the first group to present, probably not the most informative as we are all newbies with no previous campaign experience to relate, but interesting presentations from the other groups, plus some encouraging final words from Baroness Councillor Kath Pinnock, scaring us all with the helpful information that we could have lost the campaign by Christmas!
Finally lunch and the long drive home. It’s a mark of the impact of the weekend that there was very little sleeping on the way home, instead we were buzzing with plans and ideas, what we were going to do first, our campaign priorities, who was going to do what, planning a presentation for a campaign team meeting later in the week. Energised and invigorated – and probably most importantly – filled with confidence that we had the skills, what we’d already done was pretty good and that getting those seats in May was really achievable – by us!