Peer gambles on making significant gains for Lib Dems

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At 5am each morning, Lord Rennard, the Liberal Democrats' election guru, arrives in his office in Cowley Street. On his desk is a list of Liberal Democrat target seats and a strategy document that he hopes will deliver the best showing for the party since Lloyd George.

At 5am each morning, Lord Rennard, the Liberal Democrats' election guru, arrives in his office in Cowley Street. On his desk is a list of Liberal Democrat target seats and a strategy document that he hopes will deliver the best showing for the party since Lloyd George.

As dawn breaks, Lord Rennard, who is also the party's chief executive, reads the overnight polling reports and latest canvas returns, then prepares for the first strategy meeting of the day at 6.30am, where he is joined by Lord Razzall, chair of the campaign, in the party's war room.

Half an hour later, the party's chief executive discusses plans with key staff from the office of the party leader, Charles Kennedy, and Mark Littlewood, head of press, and Paul Rainger, head of campaigns.

When Chris Rennard joined the campaign department in 1989, the party was at its lowest ebb, and trailing at less than 5 per cent in some polls. The party is now at 21 per cent - its highest rating ever during an election campaign.

The regular reports he receives from target seats are showing the party gaining support, including in Labour seats that were considered no-go areas for the Liberal Democrats in past elections. Lord Rennard, a betting man, is said to have already made a trip to the bookies where he has staked his cash on significant gains.

At past elections his winnings - which have been spent on takeaways for campaign staff - have been "substantial". Lord Rennard honed his campaign skills in by-election skirmishes in Liverpool, where he became involved in campaigns at the age of 12. By 14 he was organising canvassers and by age 20 he was running local elections in the city.

After joining the party full time as its only paid campaigner, he went on to deliver a string of by-election victories and was recommended for a peerage by Paddy Ashdown.

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