Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has expressed fresh doubts about entering into a future coalition with Labour in the wake of the country's 2008 economic crisis.
The Liberal Democrat leader said he would "not be confident at all" of entering into such an arrangement in 2015 with a Labour Party that "doesn't understand that breaking the bank is a deeply regressive thing do to".
But Mr Clegg appeared to leave the door partly open to the prospect of a post-election Lib Dem-Labour coalition, adding: "Look, if the British people were basically saying 'the only way in which you can govern this country is with Labour,' then of course, I'll try and see if that's possible. It might not be possible. Who knows?"
The Lib Dem leader claimed Ed Miliband's party still believed that "good policy is synonymous with a big spending policy".
He told Prospect magazine: "In fact, I just don't see any evidence that Labour understand what it is to be a post-2008 progressive. They cannot expect to be in government without… understanding that [it] can no longer be about the governance of extravagance in public spending. And that would be my central challenge.
"I really would not be confident at all of entering into coalition with a Labour Party that doesn't understand that breaking the bank is a deeply regressive thing to do."
During the interview with novelist Edward Docx, Mr Clegg confided that he would be keen to lead the country but acknowledged such a scenario was not imminent.
He said: "If you really must know, the more I do this job, the more I'd love to be Prime Minister, but I don't think that's going to be an instant prospect."
Mr Clegg also spoke about his working relationship with Conservative leader David Cameron, stating: "On the whole, we are quite respectful of not forcing either of ourselves into impossible corners."
He added he could count the times that he and Mr Cameron had lost their tempers with each other on the fingers of "less than one hand".
The Deputy Prime Minister remained upbeat about his party's prospects at the polls in 2015, insisting: "I think we are going to do better than people predict."
He also sought to underline the significance of the current Lib Dem-Conservative coalition in British politics, stating: "The most valuable thing politically about this coalition is that it explodes the myth that we can only be governed by one party.
"It completely demolishes that, and that is a bazooka politically, with a far greater effect than sort of pea-shooter tactics of whether you leak a letter here or there. And that's what I keep holding in my mind. And that's why I have greater pride in being Deputy Prime Minister than people think."