Will Ed's soapbox show wash with voters?

Ed Miliband in Chorley

It's back. The politician's soap box.

But look who's following in John Major's footsteps. It's Ed Miliband.

I followed the Labour leader to Chorley, Lancashire, as he sought to show that he was doing politics in a different way. He told me that "we've got to try something" to break down the barriers between politicians and the people.

I asked him about the views of Tony Blair, John Reid, David Blunkett and other senior Labour figures that what he needs to do differently is to start telling the public what Labour's for and not just what it's against.

Visiting a retirement village, the Labour leader spoke of the need to look at how the elderly can be cared for outside expensive hospitals - thus saving the NHS money.

A new commission will look at how to integrate health and social care. How to govern when there is no money to spend is the question Labour finds hardest to answer.

In the last few days he's been told that Labour should seek to reassure voters that the party will, at least at first, spend only as much as its opponents - as Gordon Brown and Tony Blair did before the election of 1997.

'In good time'

He's also been told that they should state clearly that they plan to increase spending to increase public investment even if it risks a repeat of the "tax bombshell" attack which - along with his soapbox - ensured that John Major was re-elected against the odds in 1992.

The chancellor will set out the coalition's spending plans for the first year after the next election on 26 June in his Spending Review. The Labour leader said he would set out his alternative approach before the next election, when he knew about the state of the economy - it would, he added, be "in good time, honestly".

"Massive increases" in spending on the NHS "won't be available" under the next Labour government.

Mr Miliband's challenge is to turn his talk of "a new economic settlement" into something which is not judged simply by how much he promises to spend.

He will insist that pledges to extend opportunities to the 50% who don't go to university, to get the banking system to support small businesses and greater regulation of the energy and train companies are all examples of just that and show that he is pursuing a different approach not just from the Tories but from New Labour as well.

Mr Miliband also told me that there was no chance of George Galloway returning to the Labour Party and that proposals for a general strike were ridiculous and would not happen.