"The Brown brand is slightly more popular than the fading Blair brand, but both are outshone by the shiny new Cameron product."

That’s the key conclusion of Peter Riddell in today’s Times as he mines the latest Populus poll.

Populus gives the Tories a headline lead of two points – 36% to 34%.  But that lead increases if David Cameron’s name is mentioned:

"Once voters are prompted with the name of the leader, support for David Cameron’s Tories rises two points to 38 per cent, with Mr Blair’s Labour down three points to 31 per cent and Sir Menzies Campbell’s Lib Dems down two points to 17 per cent."

If Mr Cameron enjoys a 38% to 31% lead over a Blair-led Labour party he appears to enjoy a 42% to 33% lead over a Brown-led party.  The increase in numbers partly reflects a squeezing of the ‘don’t knows’ and LibDems.

It’s dangerous to read too much into these numbers as Peter Riddell concedes.  These responses, he writes "are based on a split, or half-sample, of the total of 1,512 adults, which increases the margin of error."  They will, nonetheless, provide some encouragement to party modernisers like Francis Maude.  They believe that David Cameron is more popular than the party and it is for the whole party to adopt the leader’s tone and approach if voters are to be convinced that Project Cameron has really succeeded in producing a ‘modern compassionate conservatism’.