In the absence of Tony Blair it was John Reid, not the Deputy Prime Minister, who was the public face of the government after the police foiled a plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto planes last week. Since then various media commentators have speculated that Reid’s calm handling of the terrorist arrests has increased the chances of him becoming a serious alternative to Gordon Brown when Tony Blair stands down.

The figures from YouGov’s daily tracker polls released today suggest Reid has indeed improved his reputation – in fact dramatically so. The net impression figures for John Reid – the percentage of people who say they have a positive impression of him, minus the percentage of people who say they have a negative impression of him – has risen from minus 17 the day before the arrests, to minus 2 last Thursday.

graph of John Reid's net impression rating

To put this in context this now makes John Reid the most popular of all the politicians tracked by YouGov – including the Conservative leader David Cameron, who currently scores minus 5, other cabinet members who have been touted as potential leadership contenders, such as Alan Johnson on minus 8, and way above Gordon Brown on minus 21.

Reid is seen far more positively by the public than Gordon Brown. If – and it’s a big if – there does turn out to be a contested leadership battle and if – and it’s another big if – John Reid has permanently improved his public image and it doesn’t drop straight back down against once the news agenda moves on, then he appears to gone a long way towards positioning himself as the best alternative to Brown.

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