Business Secretary Vince Cable has labelled Tory critics of Liberal Democrat plans for a "mansion tax" as "backwoodsmen".
In his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference, he expressed frustration at the lack of progress on the "core" Lib Dem policy of a mansion tax, saying: "I know it horrifies the Tory backwoodsmen, but it is popular and right."
A 1% annual levy on £2 million-plus properties would hit 2,300 properties in the South West – the area affected most outside London and the South East.
The Business Secretary also predicted that the next election will result in another hung parliament and defended his talks with senior Labour figures, insisting it was right to maintain "good communications" across the political spectrum.
Mr Cable went on to ridicule calls from the right for a "hire and fire culture" and mocked Prime Minister David Cameron, describing reports of a split within the Conservative party as "enticing".
He joked about his text exchanges with Labour leader Ed Miliband, pretending to receive a message on his phone during his speech.
He described those who called for a major relaxation of employment laws as "headbangers". In one passage of his speech, he seized on reports of rivalry between Mr Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson, highlighted the potentially toxic issue of class and also fuelled the row over chief whip Andrew Mitchell's spat with the police.
"Most of our MPs will face Conservatives at the next general election. They face the enticing prospect of a Tory split. Now I don't know what Boris and Dave got up to in Eton. Perhaps a pillow fight got out of control in the dormitories.
"I have been told, however, that jokes about social class are not good for the unity of the coalition. But as a mere pleb, I couldn't resist it."
The Business Secretary also confirmed plans for a business bank capitalised with £1 billion of taxpayers' money.