The Conservative party leader is thirteen percentage points ahead of expected Prime Minister Gordon Brown, according to the latest opinion polls.

David Cameron polled 42% in an ICM poll for The Guardian yesterday to 29% for Brown.

The government’s gay rights record has been under scrutiny in the last month after it emerged that Tony Blair and Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly wanted to give some church-run adoption agencies an opt-out from gay rights laws.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which are due to be published this week, outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods and services.

In the end, Mr Blair conceded that he would not be granting an opt-out for Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies, but not before a row in his Cabinet and anger from his own backbenchers.

The Tory party have said their MPs will be given a free vote on the regulations, while the vast majority of Labour and Lib Dem MPs are strongly in favour of them.

Yesterday’s poll is a boost to Mr Cameron, who is under pressure from right-wingers in his own party over his socially liberal attitudes. When asked which party they would vote for at the next election, 40% said the Tories.

However, the poll would suggest that Mr Cameron’s popularity is coming at the expense of the Lib Dems rather than Labour.

Ming Campbell polled 19%, down 4% on the previous month.

40% is the magic number for the Tories, as this is the share of the vote they will need to wrest power from Labour.

The Conservatives have already selected several high-profile gay and lesbian prospective parliamentary candidates for winnable seats at the next election.

Labour party officials dismissed the polls as meaningless, and said that any serious assessment of Mr Brown’s abilities as Prime Minister will have to wait until he is in No 10.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations are already in force in Northern Ireland, and are due to become law in the rest of the United Kingdom at the beginning of April.