LONDON (Reuters) - The nation's middle classes are not prepared for a wave of planned public spending cuts and this will cause political difficulties for the ruling coalition, a senior government minister said on Saturday. The alliance of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats wants to shrink state spending by more than 80 billion pounds over four years to tackle a record budget deficit. Financial markets are on watch for pressures that could weaken the 8-month-old coalition and put the deficit reduction plan in jeopardy. "One reason we're going to get some political difficulty is that (while) the public knows we've got to do something about it, I don't think Middle England has quite taken on board the scale of the problem," justice minister Ken Clarke told the Daily Telegraph. "That will emerge as the cuts start coming home this year. We've got to get on with it (but) it's going to be very difficult. If someone says it's not as bad as all that, I say (they) just don't realise the calamitous position we're in." Clarke, a plain-speaking Conservative party veteran, served as finance minister in the mid-1990s. Earlier this week Liberal Democrat leaders of 17 local councils and scores of councillors said the speed and scale of Britain's spending cuts risked damaging the economy and public services. Data showing the economy shrank at the end of last year has put the coalition's deficit reduction strategy under close scrutiny. Labour party says the government should change its cuts plan and instead boost growth and jobs.