Gordon Brown is positioning himself as the Prime Minister-in-waiting. But how does he go down with the voters? STEPHEN LEWIS finds out.

GORDON Brown is still denying in public he has done a deal with Tony Blair that will see him take over the reins of power.

But his speech to the Royal United Services Institute yesterday had all the hallmarks of a Prime Minister-in-waiting.

It moved way beyond his normal economic brief, and amounted to a passionate defence of the need for tougher security measures to combat terrorism - including identity cards and a new law to outlaw the glorification of terrorism.

Political commentators are seeing Mr Brown's speech as an indication that we are moving ever nearer to the coronation of Prime Minister Brown. But how will the Chancellor be received if and when he becomes our new premier?

The older people's champion - Don Parlabean of the York Older People's Assembly

Policies: He's not quite sure where Gordon Brown would lead the country, Don says, because in the past Mr Brown's policies have been so tied up with Tony Blair's that it is not clear what he personally believes. "He has never been able to show us what his policies are. I think he will be a little bit to the left of Blair, and will soften some of Blair's policies down a bit - but not that much."

On the whole, New Labour's record on helping the elderly has been 'pretty good', Don says. pension credit has helped lift many pensioners out of real poverty - although there are still many who are too proud to claim what is rightfully theirs

Leadership qualities: "At the beginning I didn't think he had leadership qualities, or the necessary charisma. I thought he was too dry and droll. But I have been watching him lately and he has been coming out a bit more. He has lost some of that dryness and I think he could make a very good leader." Mr Brown has a very high reputation among economists and statesmen abroad, Don says. "That will go a long way for him."

Voter appeal: "I'm not sure. So many people are saying so many different things about him. But I think when the crunch comes, people will rally behind him. I would vote for him. I think he would make an excellent leader."

The farmer - East Yorkshire farmer Grant Burton

Policies: Grant doesn't really know what Mr Brown's policies are likely to be, he admits. But he's not too impressed with New Labour's record in power. "We've had a lot of promises but not much seems to me to have happened apart from... a lot of bureaucracy for farmers." The problem is that agricultural policy is largely determined by Brussels, he says. He would like to see Government tackling big supermarkets and other retailers in an attempt to get farmers a fair price for their produce. He'd also like better labelling, so consumers found it easier to buy British, and more money pumped into tackling rural deprivation.

Leadership qualities: "Mr Brown has never struck me as having any leadership qualities. He's not been a competent Chancellor in my view. Before he sold gold reserves, he said he was going to sell them - which affected the price." Tax has risen massively under his chancellorship - and the abolition of tax relief on pension funds was a big mistake, Grant thinks. "Then they ask why we are not investing in pensions."

Voter appeal: When Tony Blair swept to power, he had the appearance of a winner, Grant says. He doesn't feel Gordon Brown has that same quality. "I can see the appeal of Tony Blair. I cannot see the appeal of Gordon Brown."

The Green campaigner - John Brierley, of Friends of St Nicholas Fields

Policies: New Labour have been "pretty poor" on the environment, says John. Global warming poses a huge threat. "And they (New Labour) are not doing anything about it. There is far too much short-termism." He doesn't think Prime Minister Brown would change that. "There is no evidence that he will be any different."

Leadership qualities: The Chancellor certainly has leadership skills, John admits: the question is whether he would have the courage to use them to do what needs doing. "The sort of leadership I would like to see is someone being brave enough to do something about the environment."

Voter appeal: Mr Brown is an improvement on Tony Blair, John says - but it's a grudging admission.

The charity fundraiser - Musician and mum Lesley Schatzberger, who launched Jessie's Fund in memory of her daughter Jessie George, who died of a brain tumour aged nine

Policies: She's not really politically aware enough to speak with authority, Lesley says. "But my feeling is that there is something more of traditional Labour about him than Tony Blair. I think he will deliver more of what people who have supported Labour in the past are happy about." Mr Brown is patron of at least one charity himself, Lesley notes - which suggests he will be more aware of the importance of the work done by charities than Tony Blair. "That is a good thing."

Leadership: He comes across as strong, and not too worried about what people think of him personally - good qualities for a leader, Lesley says. "My impression is that he will put his policies before his image."

Voter appeal: Mr Brown appears honest and genuine, Lesley says - for a politician, at least. He is clearly ambitious - but she doesn't see him as disruptive or divisive. The fact that he did not always wholeheartedly support Tony Blair shows that he has very strong beliefs, she says.

The disillusioned young voter - Builder Rob Graham, 24, who has never voted

Policies: He doesn't know a lot about politics, Rob admits. But when the next general election comes round, he probably will vote for the first time - and will vote Labour. "Everything in my life at the moment I'm quite happy with," he says. "I've got my job. When the Conservatives were in power, a lot of people lost their jobs." He thinks Gordon Brown would "keep a steady ship".

Leadership qualities: Mr Brown has been chancellor for almost nine years, Rob points out - which means he should have the experience and leadership abilities to handle the job of PM

Voter appeal: Mr Brown comes across as more trustworthy than Mr Blair, Rob says - although that may be simply that he is less tainted by decisions such as going to war with Iraq.

The disability campaigner - Lynn Jeffries, a disability consultant who uses a wheelchair

Policies: Overall, Lynn says, New Labour have done a "fantastic" job since they came to power. They have made real progress in sorting out disability legislation, she says. "And they do appear to genuinely believe in creating a more equal world." Mr Brown, she believes, can be trusted to carry on that work. If anything, she says, he is a bit more to the left than Mr Blair - and she approves of that.

Leadership qualities: As a future leader, Mr Brown would have the advantage of not being tainted by unpopular decisions taken by Mr Blair, Lynn says. He also seems less concerned with spin than Mr Blair, she believes. "I quite like him for that."

Voter appeal: Probably where the Chancellor loses out, Lynn admits. Tony Blair has a charisma that Gordon Brown lacks. He comes across as a bit stand-offish, and even a little grumpy. "Although I don't know whether he really is like that." The honesty and courage with which Mr Brown dealt with the tragic death of his first child at least helped voters see the human side of the man, Lynn says.

The businessman - Matthew Machin, director of The Balloon Tree Farmshop and Cafe, the Evening Press 2005 Business of the Year

Policies: As Chancellor, Mr Brown has been skilful at slipping in new taxes almost without people noticing, Matthew says. But under his guidance, the economy has overall done well, and business has expanded.

Leadership qualities: Mr Brown appears to have all the qualities to make him a strong leader, Matthew says.

Voter appeal: Not the chancellor's strongest point; he seems more distant than Tony Blair. But he could well grow into the job, Matthew believes. While Matthew is unwilling to reveal which way he would vote in a general election, he does think Mr Brown is the best candidate for the Labour leadership. "Who else is there?"

Updated: 11:01 Tuesday, February 14, 2006