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Miliband on Today: the highlights

The Labour leader on private health care, Hollande and how big the state should be.

New Statesman
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Jeremy Hunt was a "firewall" for David Cameron. Photograph: Getty Images.

After David Cameron's appearance on Monday, it was Ed Miliband's turn on the Today programme this morning. Here are the highlights from his interview with Evan Davis.

1. Politicians should retain responsibility for media takeovers

Miliband rejected Conservative peer Norman Fowler's suggestion that politicians should be removed from decisions on media ownership. He argued that it was important for politicians to represent the "public interest" and pointed to Alistair Darling's handling of the inquiry into BSkyB's stake in ITV.

2. Hunt is a "firewall" for Cameron

Reprising a line of attack that has appeared in most of the papers, particularly the Telegraph, Miliband said that the reason Hunt was still in his job was to deflect questions from David Cameron. The Culture Secretary is acting as a "firewall".

3. Miliband stands firm on regional pay

Miliband restated Labour's opposition to regional pay (despite supporting a regional cap on benefits), arguing that it would entrench the north-south divide and force those outside of the south-east to accept lower living standards.

4. How big should the state be?

Challenged to say how large the state should be as a per cent of national income (it currently represents 45 per cent), Miliband rightly pointed out that the size of the state has a lot to do with "the extent to which your economy is growing". So "let's not pluck out of the air figures for this percentage or that".

5. The Great Centraliser: Michael Gove

Attempting to rebut the charge that he thinks the state has "all the answers", Miliband highlighted his opposition to Michael Gove's centralisation drive. There should be a role for local authorities, he said, with more powers devolved to headteachers.

6. Private health care: "it's your choice"

Miliband said he wouldn't "stop" someone taking out private health insurance: "it's your choice". Instead, he said, he wanted an NHS good enough to ensure no one needed to do so.

7. French election: Miliband explicitly endorses Hollande

Until recently, it was rare for party leaders to publicly endorse a candidate in a foreign election, lest they be forced to work with their opponent. But David Cameron has come out for Sarkozy and now Miliband has come out for Hollande. "He represents my sister party (the Parti Socialiste), I will obviously be pleased if he won and I’m wishing him luck," said Miliband.

And on Hollande's proposed 75 per cent income tax rate? "I'm not for it," Miliband said. The City can rest easy.