Coalition divorce inevitable, says Lib Dem Tim Farron
Lib Dem party president Tim Farron has attacked Tory policies on tax and the riots, and said it was inevitable the coalition "will end in divorce".
Mr Farron, who is not a member of the government, accused his coalition partners of "knee-jerk populism" in their response to the recent disorder.
He also told his party's autumn conference the Tories thought it was "OK" for the rich to avoid paying tax.
But he said he supported the coalition and its economic strategy.
Mr Farron, who stood for the deputy leadership of the party last year, is one of the most senior Lib Dems outside government and a close ally of leader Nick Clegg.
He has a track record of attacking the Conservatives, having previously accused them of being "toxic".
He told delegates in Birmingham he was not an "apologist" for the government - although he supported its central economic policy, which he said had prevented "mass meltdown" and higher unemployment.
But he insisted the coalition arrangement with the Tories would not outlast the current Parliament - which is due to end in April 2015.
"If it (the coalition) is a marriage, well it is a good-natured one but I am afraid it is temporary.
"I don't want to upset you and it is not going to happen for three or four years but I am afraid divorce is inevitable."
Mr Farron said the role of the Lib Dems was to rein in Tory policies, suggesting that without their involvement the government would be an "absolute nightmare".
On the 50p tax rate, banking reform and NHS restructuring, he said his party had "blocked" their coalition partners and put "radical liberal politics into action".
The party had responded to its drubbing in local elections in May by demonstrating a "new spikiness" in government and would continue to fight for ordinary people and against "vested interests".
"The super-rich do not need to go down Ealing high street nicking TVs in order to demonstrate their contempt for society," he added.
"They demonstrate their contempt by not paying taxes. And let's be honest, we are sharing power with a bunch of people who think that this is OK."
And he urged the party to renew its "community-based" style of campaigning in time for local authority elections next year, saying a repeat of this year's losses was not inevitable.
Mr Clegg has said the party is "punching above its weight" in the coalition and delivering on the party's economic and social objectives.