IF politics is a bloodsport, then perhaps the SSPCA should have been called to Holyrood yesterday, to rescue the Scottish Tories.

Hemmed in by hostile opponents in a Scottish Government debate opposing Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit shenanigans, the blows rained down on them. Boris Johnson is so unpopular that many Scots would sooner wear a T-shirt commemorating the 1966 World Cup than vote for him in an election, but it is the Scottish Tories’ lot to defend him. This debate was clearly engineered to cause them maximum suffering. Not one Scottish Conservative MP stood up against the Prime Minister at Westminster, thundered Willie Rennie for the LibDems. My constituents will never forgive you, said the SNP’s Gillian Martin. The message was clear: you are his proxies in Scotland and we won’t let you forget it.

Some Scottish Tories have grave misgivings about Mr Johnson but following the departure of their centrist leader Ruth Davidson last week, they seem to have decided to embrace Brexit decisively.

They put up a fight on that basis but it’s unlikely to end well for them. Polling this week by You Gov suggests that the Scottish Tories could lose nearly a third of their votes and up to 10 of their 13 hard-won Westminster seats when the much-discussed General Election finally comes around.

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But the picture in Scotland is the reverse of what is happening UK-wide, where Boris Johnson’s poll ratings have risen steadily since July. He may be polling only 33 per cent of the vote but Nigel Farage is open to an electoral pact. With that in place, then thanks to the hopelessly unrepresentative Westminster voting system, Mr Johnson could well win a thumping majority on well below 50 per cent of the popular vote.

This might be fabulous news for the SNP, since Mr Johnson is the most effective recruiting sergeant they’ve ever had (he has achieved what any number of Yes marches and Sturgeon speeches could not, by pushing support for independence above 45 per cent).

But for the wider rebel alliance seeking to prevent a hard Brexit, it is very challenging indeed. A Johnson win would undo all the unprecedented cross-party effort that has gone into trying to block a no-deal Brexit.

The timing of an election has been much discussed, with Opposition parties more or less agreeing that they cannot allow a poll to take place before Boris Johnson has been forced to delay Brexit.

But even if, prior to the election, Mr Johnson had bowed to the demands of the Extension Bill and asked Brussels for a delay to Brexit (which he insists he will not do), once elected he would most likely steer the country towards no-deal at the end of January instead of October.

Of course he might be able to use those three months to negotiate a deal with the EU, but in spite of the Government spin suggesting that a deal is imminent, there’s been precious little progress so far. Like a lazy child who insists he’s nearly finished his homework when it lies untouched in his schoolbag, Mr Johnson has come up with nothing concrete yet to replace the Irish backstop, according to the EU, which is still waiting.

So what can be done to prevent a hard Brexit? Mr Johnson must be kept out of Downing Street – which means Opposition parties forming an electoral pact.

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Now, I’m not saying this will be easy. How, one wonders, do you sit down over tea and biscuits with a bunch of folk you’ve been loudly slagging off for years? Is it like a school mediation session? (“Now, Jeremy, is there anything you’d like to say to Jo?” “Er, yeh, I really didn’t like it when you called me divisive. It made me feel sad.”) Perhaps they all have to write down something nice about each other and read it out loud.

It’s not easy for politicians of opposing parties to work together, but they’ve done it over the Extension Bill, and now they need to do it with the election. The latest poll shows Labour on 25 per cent, the Lib Dems on 18 per cent and the Greens on five per cent, UK-wide. Add in a strong showing for the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and an anti-no deal majority is possible – but only if the pro-Remain parties are prepared to work in concert.

They did it in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, where the Greens and Plaid Cymru graciously stood aside to help the frontrunner Lib Dems win. Now the Lib Dems, Labour and the SNP must consider similar action.

What are the other options? Try to force through a referendum bill? There wasn’t enough support for adding a referendum provision to the Extension Bill, so that looks unlikely. Get the Extension Bill through, then hold a no-confidence vote in Mr Johnson in order to create a government of national unity to seek a new deal on different terms which could then be put to a referendum? This is an appealing prospect and if politicians were characters in a children’s TV drama, then we could trust them to come together like this “in the national interest” (the slogan they’d have on their jet packs), but again, it would require trust across tribal lines and a willingness to suffer the brickbats such an arrangement would inevitably trigger. Jo Swinson has said Jeremy Corbyn could not lead such a government, since few Tories would back him, and she may be right, but that’s not to say a compromise candidate couldn’t be found.

An election, however, remains the most obvious way out of the impasse, so the Opposition parties must be ready.

It has felt at times in the past few days as if the plot of a Simon Pegg movie is unfolding at Westminster, one where a crazy sect of androids has taken over the government and is ejecting respectable Tory pensioners onto College Green in the rain, dropping the torn fragments of their Conservative Party membership cards at their feet. The fightback is surely imminent: I’m sure we’d all like to see what Nicholas Soames can do with the parliamentary mace.

But in the absence of a septuagenarian revolt, we’ll have an election to try and put right this mess. An anti-no-deal electoral pact will be essential, because if there isn’t one, all of this may well have been for nothing.