Nick Clegg admits the coalition could suffer a damaging backlash from the public over its efforts to tackle the deficit.
But the Deputy Prime Minister insisted the Government had to rise above day-to-day bad headlines in order to secure the long-term future of the country.
Mr Clegg issued an effective plea for understanding from the public with just six weeks to go until the results of an unprecedentedly tough Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) are revealed.
His comments came as research predicted the north of England would be hardest hit by cuts.
Delivering a speech at the Institute for Government in London, Mr Clegg said: "We know that decisions taken for the long-term are, in the short-run, difficult, painful or unpopular - or all three. The need to tackle our inheritance of debt is the most obvious case in point.
"I am under no illusions about the significant political risks both parties in the coalition are now taking by facing up to these difficult decisions in government. But I also think people will see, even through these tough times, that the coalition Government is acting in the interests of a better future."
Mr Clegg criticised the previous Labour government for succumbing to "short-termism" and chasing headlines, saying he expected much of the coalition's best work to go unheralded.
A survey of English regions predicts spending cuts will hit the North and the Midlands worst.
The study by Experian predicted Middlesbrough would be the worst-hit town, followed by Mansfield, in Nottinghamshire, and Stoke-on Trent.