The Conservatives are a nasty party which has reverted to type, Business Secretary Vince Cable said in a sharp attack on his coalition colleagues.
Dr Cable said it had been the right move to go into coalition with David Cameron's party but that did not mean he agreed with many of the Tory policies or philosophies.
He told the Glasgow conference: "Like you, I have spent most of my political life fighting the Tories... but despite that I believe it was both brave and absolutely right for the party and the leadership to work with the Tories in an economic emergency in the national interest. Theresa May once characterised the Tories a decade ago as the nasty party. After a few years trying to be nice and inclusive it has reverted to type. We have got dog whistle politics, orchestrated by an Australian Rottweiler, we have got hostility to organised labour, people on benefits and immigrant minorities."
Mr Cable said the Conservative Party disapproved of public sector workers, teachers, the unmarried and people who do not own property. And he joked to delegates: "I suspect their core demographic excludes pretty much anybody who wouldn't have qualified to vote before the 1867 Reform Act. I think these prejudices can be explained in part by their age profile - I suspect I would qualify, not on ideology, but on age to be a member of the Young Conservatives."
Mr Cable said the basic reason was a "simple calculation" that the Tories believe in difficult times "fear trumps hope" and that "competence requires callousness". "That is not our kind of politics," Mr Cable said. "It is ugly, and we will not be dragged down by it. That's why our Liberal Democrat message about fairness is absolutely key."
The Business Secretary said the Liberal Democrats could legitimately claim credit for tax policies which delivered tax cuts for the least well off. And he told delegates: "I remember in opposition bringing this policy forward at a time when George Osborne's top priority was cutting inheritance tax for millionaires. Our commitment to taxing unproductive wealth... is economically sensible and popular but above all fair - and don't let Labour steal that either."
Mr Cable said "fairness takes us so far" but added "in my view not far enough". The Liberal Democrat conference slogan calls for a "stronger economy, fairer society". And Mr Cable said: "We are not just a nicer version of the Tories. There are fundamental differences about how we create a stronger economy and more jobs. We are five years on from the biggest market failure of our lifetime. Financial capitalism collapsed and was rescued by the state. Labour was in charge, falling asleep at the wheel, and they were negligent. But the Tories' friends and donors were also at the heart of the greed and recklessness that lay behind that disaster. They yearn to return to business as usual."
Mr Cable added: "Our rejection of that (Tory) dogma also leads us to an eclectic mix of markets and regulation. We are rightly getting rid of the red tape that throttles small business. But some regulation is essential and that's why I work with Ed Davey to resist Tory pressure to emasculate environmental regulation, as in their ludicrous war on windmills. It's also why we have seen off demands from a Tory donor to make it possible to fire people for no reason whatever."
The Business Secretary said the Liberal Democrats would continue to act against bad practice and announced a formal Government consultation on zero-hour contracts. Mr Cable said it took "many years of mistakes to create the financial crisis" and that it had taken five years to begin a remedy. "We must not now settle for a short-term spurt of growth fuelled by old-fashioned property boom and bust and bankers rediscovering their mojo," he said.
The Business Secretary said "amber lights are flashing", warning history could repeat itself. And winning laughs from delegates, he added: "David Cameron says I am the Jeremiah but you will recall from your reading of the Old Testament, that Jeremiah was right. He warned Jerusalem would be overrun by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and in my own book of lamentation, I described how Gordon Brown's new Jerusalem was overcome by an army of estate agents, property speculators and bankers. The problem we now have is the invaders are back and they have a bridgehead in London and the south east of England and they have got to be stopped."