Another new day.  Another opinion poll.  Another Tory lead.

Today’s ICM poll for the Guardian gives the Conservatives a 37% to 36% lead over Labour with the LibDems on 21%.  More interestingly, perhaps, is ICM’s finding that the Tory lead would grow to 41% over 36% if Gordon Brown was in charge of Labour.  Populus found something similar just last week for The Times.

The survey also finds that 66% of people regard David Cameron as a potential Prime Minister (this figure includes a majority of supporters of all the main parties).  Nearly as many – 62% – think that "David Cameron seems like someone who could change the way they think about the Conservative Party".

ThetoriesarebackThe leader writers at The Guardian clearly see the poll as significant.  Under a "The Tories are back" headline, they warn against Labour hoping for the polls to turn once Tony Blair fulfils his promise to step down:

"But surely it will all be different when Tony Blair goes? Do not count on it. There is little comfort for this view in a second part of today’s poll. Labour and Lib Dem voters continue to rate Gordon Brown – Mr Blair’s likeliest successor – as a good chancellor of the exchequer. Yet, faced with the possibility of Mr Brown as Labour leader, things change dramatically. Asked which way they would vote in a three-party general election contest under Mr Cameron, Mr Brown and Charles Kennedy, the Tory lead stretches from the current 1% (with Mr Blair as Labour leader) to 5% over Mr Brown. Under Mr Brown, the Labour vote holds steady, but the much more volatile Lib Dem vote fragments powerfully in favour of the Tories. On the basis of this poll, therefore, Mr Brown may prove to be a polarising figure who will frighten floating voters back into the arms of the Tories."

Gordon Brown remains the bookies’ overwhelming favourite to succeed Tony Blair but a run of similar polls – perhaps coinciding with bad economic news – may yet cause panic in Labour ranks and the touting of alternative leadership candidates…