Senior Liberal Democrat minister Danny Alexander has slapped down Cabinet colleague Vince Cable for suggesting that the coalition could split early, insisting that the party leadership is determined the alliance "lasts right to the election in 2015".
The Business Secretary, who launched a strongly worded attack on the Tories in his keynote speech at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, suggested it was "certainly possible" the two parties could go their separate ways in the run-up to the election.
He said the party's position on the end of the coalition had not yet been fixed but Mr Alexander insisted the intention of the Lib Dem hierarchy was to remain in partnership with the Tories until 2015.
Asked about the possibility of a break-up in the months before the 2015 election at a fringe event organised by The Independent newspaper, Mr Cable replied: "It's certainly possible. We are not at the stage of talking about that process. It is obviously a very sensitive one. It has got to be led by the leader. We have not yet had those conversations."
On BBC2's Newsnight, he said the position would be "collectively decided by our Lib Dem team" closer to the election and "all kind of things are possible".
But Treasury Chief Secretary Mr Alexander told ITV1's Daybreak: "We are proving our track record in government and we are going to stay in the coalition Government right up until the election in 2015." He added: "I read his (Mr Cable's) remarks. He didn't say that the coalition would split earlier, he was asked questions about what was possible. What I'm saying to you is that it is our intention as the leadership of this party to make sure that this coalition lasts right to the election in 2015."
Mr Alexander, who will use his conference speech to say the Lib Dems will make "taxes on the very wealthy" one of their priorities to help balance the books, was forced to deny the party was drawing up plans for a new tax on people earning more than £50,000. The suggestion, in a briefing to MPs on "lines to take" in TV interviews which was inadvertently sent to journalists, was not party policy, he said.
Mr Alexander, who admitted his £134,565 ministerial salary meant he was "very much in the better off part of the population", said people on £50,000 were "not rich".
He added: "There's absolutely no truth to any suggestion that we are looking at taxes at that level." The Lib Dems on Monday adopted policies to "putting in place a mansion tax so that people who have homes worth over £2 million pay more tax on the value of that home over £2 million, changes to capital gains tax, measures to clamp down on tax avoidance".
"All ways of asking the very wealthiest in our country to pay more tax so that as we go through the next stage of the big adjustment that we are making as a country, we are making sure that the wealthiest in the lands are making a fair contribution," he said. "For people on low and middle incomes our big promise is that we are going to go on cutting your taxes because we know that you need a bit more money in your pockets to deal with the big challenges you are facing."