BRIGHTON - While it would be "spineless" to walk away from the coalition before the 2015 general election, Liberal Democrats must take every opportunity to show voters what right-wing Tory policies they are preventing by occupying seats at the cabinet table, senior party figures have said.
As the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton gets underway, Nick Clegg urged his activists and MPs not to spend too much time "squabbling" with the Conservatives as it would undermine the idea of coalition governments.
However he warned right-wing Tory backbenchers - including favourite Peter Bone by name - that they had no mandate to inflict a "turbo-charged right wing agenda" on the country.
"You do not have a majority," he told any Tories watching. "The British people have not given you the right to act like you do. We formed this coalition in good faith and for the good of the country at a time of crisis. That required compromise on both sides. Liberal Democrats have kept our side of the bargain. You must too."
And in a scene that would no doubt irritate Bone, one of the loudest cheers Clegg received during his conference rally was when he reminded the party the coalition planned to bring in gay marriage.
Clegg's words were echoed by party president Tim Farron, who said the Lib Dems would stay in government until 2015 but should be "constantly disengaged" politically from the Tories.
He said while there was "no question" of the Lib Dems signing up to a deficit reduction plan beyond 2015 it would be "spineless" to walk away too soon.
Not a single voter that thinks the party "sold out" would switch their vote if the Lib Dems bailed on the coalition in mid-2014, Farron told a gathering of party activists on Saturday evening.
Instead the party leadership appears to be banking on other voters being impressed with them for sticking with it until the bitter end.
The party's deputy leader Simon Hughes, who told The Huffington Post that the party would have to do things to improve the economy "right up until the last moment".
"For us to walk away from or separate from the process of making sure we get the best budgets of 2012 and 2015 would be nonsense," he said.
But he attacked "unreconstructed" Tory backbenchers while praising foreign secretary William Hague for not being as eurosceptic as he expected.
Lord Rennard, the former chief executive of the party and election strategist, said it was "not enough" to show the electorate what the party has achieved, it also needs to show voters what right-wing Tory policies it has been able to block.
He told a fringe event at the main conference hotel "It didn't look too good when we appeared at times to look pleased with work with them [the Tories]".
"We must show what we are preventing the Tories from doing," he said. "God help the people they call 'plebs' if they got a majority," he added.
Related on HuffPost:
<strong>Current Job:</strong> Looking for a job <strong>Pro:</strong> Narrowly lost the last leadership race against Clegg <strong>Con:</strong> That is a picture of him arriving at court
<b>Current Job:</b> Appearing on TV to NOT talk about *that* court case. <b>Pro:</b> She is a world class economist and has made no secret of her political ambitions <b>Con:</b> Had a spot of bother with someone driving a tad fast
<strong>Current Job:</strong> Party president and 'differentiator' in chief <strong>Pro:</strong> Makes really good jokes <strong>Con:</strong> A bit of a joke
<strong>Current Job: </strong> Being popular <strong>Pro: </strong>He is popular (with people) <strong>Con:</strong> But he is not popular (with Lib Dem MPs)
Current Job: Energy secretary Pro: Could sneak up through the middle (see: John Major) Con: Who?
<strong>Current Job:</strong> Texting Ed Miliband Pro: Popular with the left of the party and Labour Con: Tory business minister Michael Fallon is under orders to assassinate him if he makes any moves against Clegg
<strong>Current Job: </strong> Turning down jobs Pro: Free of the coalition dirt Con: Missed his chance?
<strong>Current Job:</strong> Trying to break the Lib Dem glass ceiling <strong>Pro: </strong>Would be the party's first female leader <strong>Con: </strong> The Lib Dems strangely do not have a great record on promoting women
<strong>Current Job: </strong> Hanging out with Hugh Grant <strong>Pro: </strong> Lost his seat so is untainted by Tory germs <strong>Con: </strong> The Sun would monster him
<strong>Current Job: </strong> Mr Swinson <strong>Pro: </strong> Up. And. Coming. <strong>Con</strong> Would have to fight his wife for the job