Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has told how he searched his conscience over the coalition's spending cuts.
The Liberal Democrat leader said he found that putting through the measures was "morally difficult".
But, appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he said there were no "pain-free alternatives".
Mr Clegg's music choices included David Bowie and Schubert and he admitted he was a secret smoker, choosing a "stash of cigarettes" as his luxury item.
Speaking about the cuts, he said: "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.
"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."
On his luxury item for the desert island, Mr Clegg said: "I have a confession to make which is I do like the occasional cigarette....
"I can just imagine as the sun's going down and you know I've got the beard flowing down to my knees and I'm thinking what on earth am I going to, you know, while away the time... puffing away on a cigarette would be quite nice.
"I know I'm not supposed to say this because it's a terrible thing. And I hope my children don't hear this programme because they don't even know that I smoke."
Mr Clegg added he drank very little alcohol, "next to nothing".
When presenter Kirsty Young suggested that Mr Clegg was looking "very tired and very worn down by it all", he joked that it was down to "a combination of work and small children".
As well as Bowie's Life on Mars, Mr Clegg's discs included Sunday Morning Coming Down by Johnny Cash, The Cross by Prince, and 2010 World Cup theme Waka Waka by Shakira.
He also plumped for Idil Biret playing Chopin's Waltz in A Minor, and Schubert's Impromptu No.3 in G Flat Major played by Alfred Brendel.
If he could only have one record, Mr Clegg said he would opt for Schubert.
His book was The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
Nick Clegg's Desert Island Discs
1. Idil Biret playing Chopin's Waltz in A Minor
2. Johnny Cash and Sunday Morning Coming Down
3. Prince and The Cross
4. Cesaria Evora and Petit Pays
5. Radiohead and Street Spirit
6. David Bowie and Life on Mars
7. Shakira and Waka Waka the theme to the 2010 World Cup
8. Schubert's Impromptu No.3 in G Flat Major played by Alfred Brendel
Book: The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
Luxury: A stash of cigarettes