Vince Cable has welcomed Labour support for a wealth tax and defended his contacts with the Opposition, but insisted he was committed to the Conservative-led coalition and had no ambitions to take back the Liberal Democrat leadership.
The Business Secretary laughed off an open appeal by shadow chancellor Ed Balls for him to join forces on an alternative economic policy as "flattery" when the two came face to face on a television studio sofa.
He said that while he considered himself a centre-left politician and enjoyed "chemistry" with some Labour figures, he was able to deal with Tory ministerial colleagues "in an equally businesslike way".
Ed Miliband revealed last week that he swapped text messages with the senior Liberal Democrat as part of a bid to exploit perceived coalition tensions ahead of the political party conference season.
The campaign was stepped up on Sunday when Mr Balls used a newspaper article to offer to work with "sensible people" in the Government and said he could start work with Mr Cable immediately to kick-start the economy with a capital spending programme.
"Vince should be listened to on banking reform and on the economy. I could work with Vince. I would like the Liberal Democrats to say right now that this coalition has failed and we're going to change course," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.
"I want a Labour majority government elected in 2015. But right now I want decent people who put the country first and are sensible in their thinking to come together and do the right thing. I think Vince is one of those people."
When the pair came face to face on air after their interviews, Mr Cable said he was "delighted" that the shadow chancellor had come out in favour of his proposal to impose a "mansion tax" on £2 million-plus properties. But he insisted he was "very happy" with Nick Clegg's leadership, whom he thought would also describe himself as centre left.
On the party leadership, he added: "I have no ambitions in that area. I have been leader of my party for a relatively short period of time. I have been there and done that, and I am getting on with my job in Government."
He went on: "Flattery does not necessarily deal satisfactorily with the issue. We have a very good Deputy Prime Minister. I am very happy with Nick, he will continue in the job."