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Campaign Diary: Time for the Lib Dems to Recharge Their Batteries?

05/04/2015 21:07 BST | Updated 05/06/2015 10:59 BST

No pain, no gain. That's the saying isn't it? Well the Liberal Democrats gained power after the last election and the pain ever since has been excruciating. But at the top of the party they're hungry for more.

Some might call that masochistic. A former leader, David Steel, suggests it's time for the party to go into opposition, "recharge batteries" and take the next Parliament vote-by-vote.

At the top of the party, they're having none of it. David Laws, minister, close confidante of Nick Clegg and a member of the Lib Dems' negotiating team in the next round of coalition talks - if they happen - told me he was setting his sights squarely on a share of power in a new coalition and nothing less.

"Look, let me be blunt about this," he told me earlier on Pienaar's Politics - my BBC Radio 5 live show. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nhnwt

"We had a hundred years of recharging our batteries between the early part of the twentieth century and recent times.

"The party does not need time to recharge batteries or anything. The party wants to be a serious player in national politics. It wants to promote its own policies and its own values in government. Liberal Democrats across the country are used to doing this at a local government level for ages. They're used to the difficulties and the compromises you have to make in coalition government. The party has been amazingly mature and calm under fire over this last five years."

And yet. The Lib Dems are struggling to gain credit for the potentially popular aspects of the Coalition Government's record. So, the next step will be promise an acceleration of the programme to tax more low paid workers - and pensioners - out of tax.

Laws told me: "If the Liberal Democrats are in coalition talks after the next election then this will be one of the items that we want to put on the list for discussion before even the first cup of coffee has been served in the coalition talks. This is a massive priority for us." Watch this space then.

I watched the TV leaders debate on Thursday from the "spin room" at Media City in Salford. It's well named. The messages and slogans, briefing counter-briefing came at me from all directions. It was like being locked in a washing machine. Clegg, I thought, was the most natural performer on the stage. But the polls show the party still languishing in the polls, barely touching double figures.

Their hope is that organisation on the ground, the advantage of incumbency, helps them cling onto more seats in Parliament than the polls suggest: enough, maybe, to earn them an invitation to a new round of coalition talks, with or without coffee on the table. This contest is about as finely balanced, and unpredictable as it could be. Who's to say their calculations are wrong?

Hear the podcast of Pienaar's Politics here http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/pienaar