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 was 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 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 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 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."
In an interview with The Huffington Post UK on the eve of the conference, former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown said ending the coalition early was a "completely crazy idea".
He said: "I don’t know any Lib Dems whom I have respect for who are proposing such a thing. First of all you are at the wheel of a ship that is passing through the storm. You can’t say 'excuse me, I want to hop off' - it's the craziest idea I have heard in my life."Suggest a correction