Developing

Improved polls, party unity & Boris' brother in No 10: Are things looking up for Cameron?

By Ian Dunt

Boris Johnson's younger brother will begin his first day as David Cameron's new head of policy this morning, amid signs the Conservatives are starting to make a recovery.

Jo Johnson has been chosen to fill a role usually reserved for a civil servant, in a move which is intended to make Downing Street more political in its day-to-day operation.

His recruitment comes as a new policy advisory unit featuring backbench rebels is established.

Experienced MPs like Peter Lilley and Nick Gibb will sit alongside some younger colleagues like Jesse Norman, George Eustice and Paul Uppal in a move intended to establish more party unity.

The moves are clear attempts to draw a line under the rebellions which have damaged Cameron's administration so far.

They come amid a growing sense of party unity since the death of Margaret Thatcher.

Cameron himself acted to dispel the image of himself as arrogant and aloof following the death of the former Tory prime minister.

He sent all MPs who spoke in the debate following her death a handwritten note and took several to a Commons bar immediately afterwards.

The presence of Lynton Crosby, the macho Australian strategist installed in Downing Street, is also thought to have boosted party unity.

Many Tory backbenchers are reassured by the presence of a man obsessed with their pet issues, such as immigration and welfare, and willing to accept his demands for discipline in the parliamentary party.

Polling shows the improved discipline is having an electoral effect. A majority Conservative government is now equal with a majority Labour government as the ideal outcome of the 2015 general election and Labour's lead has been consistently reduced to single digits.

According to today's YouGov poll, Labour is on 39% to the Conservatives on 31%.

Local elections could still prove disastrous for the Tories, however, and bring a return of internecine fighting.

The polls on May 2nd are mostly a straight fight between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, with Ukip as a wildcard. If there was a Conservative wipe-out, questions about Cameron's leadership are likely to return.