Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described how he wrestled with his conscience over the coalition's spending cuts.
The Liberal Democrat leader said that he found administering the biggest financial retrenchment in living memory "morally difficult".
But appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he insisted there were no "pain-free alternatives" to the measures set out in Chancellor George Osborne's spending review.
"I have spent every day of this process - pretty well every minute of this process - asking myself whether there are pain-free alternatives, whether we are doing the right thing, and I genuinely believe there is no easy alternative," he said. "I have certainly searched long and hard into my own conscience about whether what we are doing is for the right reasons. I am not going to hide the fact that a lot of this is difficult. I find it morally difficult. It is difficult for the country."
Mr Clegg has come under fire for backing "regressive" Tory spending plans and abandoning Lib Dem election promises.