Vince Cable has lashed out at the "born to rule arrogance" of the Conservatives in an outspoken attack on his coalition partners.
In a keynote address to activists at the Liberal Democrats' annual conference in Glasgow, the business secretary said the Tories were "reinventing themselves as Ukip but without the beer"
He boasted that the Liberal Democrats opposed the Tories over immigration and the European Union, branding them "purveyors of panic, prejudice and pessimism".
"They say they want Britain to be ‘open for business’, ‘to win the global race’; then, they try to close the borders to skills and talents that Britain needs, by pursuing an absurd net migration target – plucked out of the air and totally unenforceable," Cable said.
"Overseas students, whose fees subsidise British students and earn £9bn a year for the UK, are discouraged and so go to the US or Australia instead. Firms who need specialist skills from Japan, India or the US have to climb piles of red tape (far bigger than anything generated by Eurocrats in Brussels).
"We then train Chinese engineers and insist they go home just when British industry can make good use of them. But, of course, there is always a warm welcome isn’t there for dodgy billionaires willing to make a large party donation for a game of tennis with Boris and Dave."
Cable mockingly referred to the upcoming by-election in Clacton this week, which is set to see ex-Tory MP Douglas Carswell become Ukip's first elected MP.
"The Tories for their part are horribly torn between open economic liberalism and their inward looking, UKIP-facing grassroots, who probably see Clacton-on-Sea as the new Constantinople – holding out against the alien hordes."
The Tories are like "Ukip without the beer", Cable told activists
The Liberal Democrat business secretary also mocked the Tories' key message of a "long term economic plan", quipping that it was a "bit Soviet for my taste".
This comes after he launched a vicious attack on chancellor George Osborne's flagship Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme earlier in the day, warning activists that it "doesn't actually help you buy" and makes homes more unaffordable.
Speaking in a housing debate, Cable told activists: "How do you stimulate supply? Mr Osborne has this policy called Help to Buy which doesn’t actually help you buy because it drives up the price and makes it less affordable. But what we really need is Help to Build. It’s small builders who desperately need credit and support for training in an industry.”
The Liberal Democrat business secretary also railed at Margaret Thatcher's "Right to Buy" scheme, telling supporters that it had done "enormous damage. "We have to stop it," he added.
Cable's keynote conference speech did attract mockery from his opposite number, Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who pointed out that he did not mention things like "trebling tuition fees".