Miliband on Today: the highlights

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

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.

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

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.