BRIGHTON - Liberal Democrats who want to exit the coalition before the full five years risk damaging the party's chances of avoiding electoral oblivion, Danny Alexander has said.
The Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury said the public would not trust the party if it bailed out of government early in order to attack the Tories in the run up to the election campaign.
"It's just for the birds the idea you go into coalition government, work hard to deliver promises and then escape early to contradict all things things you did, it is quite simply absurd," he said.
"All those people who say you need to make some great strategic swerve in order to achieve that [electoral success] are wrong."
"We chose to go from being the longest serving party of opposition to being the newest party of power, there is no going back from that decision, it is the right decision for the party and the right decision for the country," he said.
Alexander has come in for some criticism at the party's annual conference in Brighton for being too close to the Tories.
One party member accused Alexander of being "more right wing" than the chancellor. And a poll published on Monday morning found that he was the most trusted Lib Dem minister by Tory MPs, something that will not have endeared him to the Lb Dem grassroots.
Lib Dem ministers have come under pressure from activists this week to be bolder in criticising their Tory coalition partners.
However Nick Clegg has said the public will not reward the party or trust in coalition governments if all they see is "squabbling".
And Alexander told the party faithful today that they needed to go out and sell what the Lib Dems had achieved in government to the voters.
"Having made that big important strategic choice that the Lib Dems are a party power not a party of perpetual opposition, we have to have self confidence to go out and tell people what it is were are doing," he said.