BORIS Johnson ended the Tory family get-together in a largely rain-soaked Manchester with more jokes than policies. But there was one undiluted message: “Let’s get Brexit done.”

The slogan was everywhere but, sadly for the party managers, the media focus was not. The annual event fell foul of the press’s determination to place the spotlight squarely where the Prime Minister did not want it: on his relationship with two women.

That is, Jennifer Arcuri, the American model-turned businesswoman, who received thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money for her business ventures during Mr Johnson’s mayoralty and – allegedly – boasted how she had an affair with the Conservative leader; and Charlotte Edwardes, the journalist, who claimed that 20 years ago during a lunch the now PM stroked her thigh under the table.

Mr Johnson was, understandably, reluctant to dwell on the claims, denying both of them in the most minimalist way he could find as he wanted to divert the media spotlight on to policy ie Brexit. 

But the PM did not help his cause, certainly in the case of Ms Edwardes, when he insisted her groping claim was “absolutely not true” yet admitted to not remembering anything about the lunch.

Conspicuous by its absence in all the furore over the Boris/Arcuri/Edwardes saga was any SNP comment.

No prizes for guessing why.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson unveils his Brexit plan 

While, of course, Brexit dominated policy talk during the four-day gathering in Scottish circles the ‘U’ and ‘i’ words were never far from
Tory lips.

Senior sources were adamant Boris had to avoid a December poll given the prospect of bad weather; all but one of the 13 Conservatives seats are in rural areas.

Then, there was the delicate matter of the Salmond trial. Politically, the Tories in Scotland eye an electoral opportunity from what they see as the ensuing “turmoil” within Nationalist ranks, which they believe can only play to the Conservative advantage.

The biggest threat to the Tory 13 is from the SNP; a poll last month suggested every Conservative MP would be ousted by their Nationalist opponent in a snap election.

So, the PM has been urged to hold back; go in the spring. It will be interesting to see if the Minister for the Union is listening.

Jackson Carlaw, the interim Scottish Conservative leader, gave an ebullient conference fringe speech, calling on Unionists to have some backbone in taking on the Nationalist threat; it seemed very much like an audition to take on the role permanently.

In contrast, Alister Jack, the new Scottish Secretary, still seems to be finding his Cabinet feet. 

If, against the odds, the PM gets a new withdrawal deal with Brussels, then the temptation will be to go to the country quickly to capitalise on a Brexit bounce despite Scottish Tory wishes. A no-deal and the expected border disruption could indeed lead Mr Johnson to play it long.

Details of the Government’s Brexit blueprint seeped out with references to two borders – a regulatory one between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and a customs one between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

READ MORE: Labour 'plans to hand powers over railway to Westminster' 

Key is the role that Stormont would play: providing a democratic lock. The DUP appears on board. But, of course, the provincial assembly is not up and running. So, a four-year period has been suggested to help provide the time and space to enable MLAs to come back together.

While the PM and No 10 have insisted the Johnson Plan is the UK’s first and final offer, the call by James Cleverly, the Tory Chairman, for “flexibility” pointed to how this was in fact the opening gambit.

The expectation is prorogation will take place next week with the Queen’s Speech still set for Monday October 14. The following day Ms Sturgeon gives her keynote speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen. 

Two days later the European Council takes place.  As UK officials never cease to remind people. the EU only does a deal at one minute to midnight. So, to coin a phrase, it will be a “do-or-die” European Council. . The stakes could not be higher.