Reid's high profile raises prospect of leadership bid

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John Reid is increasingly being tipped by Labour MPs to run for the party's leadership after dominating the headlines in the aftermath of the alleged terror plot.

The Home Secretary dominated the airwaves again yesterday following an early morning press conference outlining the lowering of the terror threat.

Many MPs believe his high profile in the Prime Minister's absence is an attempt to position himself as a potential challenger to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor. He may be viewed as a possible champion for Blairites who risk being left out of the forthcoming race unless he stands. "He's been here, there and everywhere. He obviously considers himself a potential candidate for the leadership," said Ian Gibson, a leftwing Labour MP. "If he pulls this off, a lot of MPs will think again about his chances."

Mr Reid was accused of using Mr Blair's absence on holiday to seize control of the Government and sideline John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, last week when he chaired the Cobra emergency committee. He then held a dramatic early morning press conference with Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary, to announce the action he had authorised.

Mr Reid has stolen a march on Mr Brown, who has been on holiday in Scotland, and irritated some of his own colleagues who privately accused him of exploiting the law-and-order agenda. Before the terrorist threat was revealed, he had planned to mark his 100 days in office last weekend by setting out his reforms since arriving at the Home Office. "He's good at promoting himself," said one disgruntled minister.

Mr Reid, regarded as ultra-Blairite, responded to public concern over light prison sentences and rising immigration by declaring that the department he inherited from Charles Clarke was "not fit for purpose". He began a round of changes, including scrapping plans to force the merger of police forces, hiving off the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to an agency, and launching a public debate on immigration.

Last week, Mr Reid re-opened the immigration issue, saying: "We have to get away from this daft so-called politically correct notion that anybody who wants to talk about immigration is somehow racist."

He indicated he supports setting up a Migration Advisory Committee to advise on a national limit on annual immigration to Britain because of the impact on low pay and council services.

Mr Reid was due to raise immigration again in a Demos lecture but used the platform to warn that terrorism posed the greatest threat since the Second World War. Hours later, the police made their raids, leaving MPs speculating that he had used his inside knowledge to steal the headlines.

A member of Labour's National Executive Committee said: "Reid obviously sees himself as a potential challenger, but I think the danger for Gordon Brown is that the party will jump a generation to someone like David Miliband."

Frank Field, the Labour MP said last night: "I want a contest. I will be trying to support somebody like John Reid or Alan Johnson who can take on the Toff from Eton [David Cameron]."

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