DIDN’T it go well? One week into the winter General Election and senior Tories have launched their campaign in a shed in Birmingham, condemned the Grenfell dead for being too lickspittle to save themselves from fire, resigned on the basis of sexual assault allegations, waffled and lied to Northern Irish businessmen about Brexit, endorsed a candidate in Scotland who lost her teaching certificate for branding Nicola Sturgeon a “drooling hag” and been exposed for their involvement in collapsing a rape trial. I’m a tenderfoot when it comes to PR, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the ideal way to kick-off one of the most unpredictable general campaigns in recent political history.

The headlines can be ghastly on any given day. Some seats will be won, and some lost – but the Conservatives are taking heart from the fundamentals. From the Scottish Tory perspective, the political calculation behind this General Election goes something like this: Look at Scotland. Look at Scottish Labour’s fate after 2014. Now, apply those lessons to the UK in 2019.

After the 2014 referendum, the Labour Party emerged victorious but tainted by its Tory associations. Scottish politics radically changed. A majority may have decided to remain in the UK for the time being, but the public were disinclined immediately to move on from the constitutional question. “Yes or No?” remained the most salient political question in determining how most of the public cast their votes.

READ MORE: Unionist party election campaigns could not be off to a worse start

Scottish Labour tried to defy this political weather. While the SNP doubled down on independence, the LibDems paid the price of their coalition and the Scottish Tories realised the political potential of becoming the pre-eminent “party of Union” Labour went their own way.

Jim Murphy dug out his manky Scotland strip and went for jogs along the Clyde. His colleagues hoped to roll the political conversation back to the domestic agenda, a head-to-head battle with the Tories at UK level, with the background entertainment of watching the Nats disintegrate in the wake of their failed referendum. Business as usual. That was the theory, anyway.

To say things haven’t quite worked out this way is the understatement of the political century. Gordon Brown’s party won 42% of the Scottish vote in the 2010

General Election to the SNP’s 19.9%. On YouGov’s reckoning this week, it’s the SNP who’re polling 42% nationally, while Scottish Labour have tumbled to a vote share of just 12%, all in nine years.

The Nationalists have benefitted from hoovering up the lion’s share of the Yes vote, and the Tories have been the principal beneficiaries – in the divided Unionist camp – of battering away at their Unionism at the expense of their conservatism. In Scotland, Labour’s Goldilocks position satisfied nobody.

Apply this analysis to Brexit and you get a flavour of the Tory thinking going into this UK poll. If Brexit is for the UK what the indyref was for Scotland, and the constitutional divisions take primacy, Labour is gazing into a political abyss. If the Conservatives can unite the pro-Brexit vote while Remainer opinion is scrapped out amongst Labour, the LibDems and the SNP, Boris Johnson has a decent chance of giving Jeremy Corbyn the tanning Scottish Labour took just a year after they celebrated Better Together’s win in the Marriott Hotel.

There are major “ifs” here. The impact of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is one wildcard. But that’s the case for a Johnson majority. Scotland aside, I’m not sure its assumptions entirely stack up. I could well be mistaken. But one week into the Tories’ clown-car campaign to retain office, here are a couple of sceptical queries to chew on in the meantime.

Question one: is the feeling generated by Brexit the same as the depth and breadth of the independence question? Is the irrelevance Scottish Labour consigned itself to the necessary consequence of the painful progress of Jeremy Corbyn’s party in finding a coherent Brexit line? Maybe. At either end of the Brexit spectrum, there are clearly people whose whole political worlds are now staked on Leave and Remain identities. But the idea that Brexit really is the overriding threshold question to be taken seriously on any other question of policy can be doubted.

Question two: is the Labour-Tory switch Boris Johnson is counting on the same kind of modest bounce which convinced left-of-centre Labour voters to vote for the left-of-centre SNP? Will the “red wall” of Leave-voting Labour constituencies which spans Great Grimsby to the north of Wales come tumbling down to Boris’s Brexit trumpets? Scotland’s experience this decade shows us that the old certainties can crumble. But the idea that slogans about “getting Brexit done” will leverage lifelong Labour votes into backing Conservative candidates in December is, at the very least, a more dramatic change of weather than turning a Glasgow Labour voter into a SNP supporter.

In retrospect, what the Tories were really looking for was a fast and dirty General Election. Their banners can shout “Get Brexit done” and “unleash Britain’s potential”, but if a week is a long time in politics, then five is an interminable time in a political campaign. This election is being described in some quarters as a “snap poll” – but that’s not so. It’s a “cold snap” poll, certainly. But snappy?

By the time we reach the 12th day of advent, we’ll have five weeks of campaigning in our craw. And given that stretch of time, the UK Government will inevitably find itself vulnerable to events, dear boy, events – and simple exhaustion with the shallow Brexit line which the Tories think is their trump card.

You don’t have to contemplate too hard to see the dilemma the Tories face. At his party’s synthetic, All-American campaign launch, Boris Johnson told his supporters “this country is aching to move on” from “the rut of the last three years”.

But with five weeks still to go, the Tories may find it is difficult to pretend all at once that this General Election is (a) entirely about Brexit and (b) they really want to talk about the domestic agenda, while insisting they (c) don’t really want to talk about the domestic agenda, but only Brexit. “Get Brexit done” is an appeal to boredom and impatience, but neither are likely to appreciate almost 40 days of Priti Patel barking “get Brexit done”, while Ebenezer Mogg denies the main goal of Tory welfare policy is “to decrease the surplus population”.

There are obvious cognitive dissonances in maintaining – at once – “the public are sick and tired of Brexit” while insisting on spending more than a month talking only about Brexit. Corbyn shows every intention of re-running his party’s better-than-expected 2017 campaign orientated towards domestic policy – and just one week in, it’s difficult to see how the Tories can avoid being wrestled into a discussion which can only muddy and distract from their “Brexit first” message.

And when you contemplate the way Boris Johnson intends to move on from the austere legacy of May and Cameron – a legacy in many points he is clearly implicated in – what you won’t find is much “clear blue water”.

Having spent the last decade schooling the public about irresponsible Labour spending plans, managing deficits and the painful fiscal necessity of screwing over the poor, under the new Johnson administration, money is apparently to be no object. The PM wants to “turn on the taps” of public spending – in stark contrast to the socialist wreckers of the Labour Party who … er ... want to “turn on the taps” of public spending. But Johnson wishes to go further, buttonholing additional welfare spending and grand capital enterprises with tax cuts too.

In their reception of whatever the Tory party makes policy of the day, the Tory press have infinite flexibility. If an idea emanates from the political left, the Jeremiah’s of the Conservative media will condemn it as Venezuela lite on Monday, and greet the same policy as brilliance from triangulating Tories on Tuesday.

The whole discussion has an air of deep political unreality. Instead of the mild and achievable social democratic initiatives Labour seems likely to champion in this campaign, both Tories and the more excitable of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters seem determined to present the Labour platform as full luxury communism now.

It’s a moment of flux. But if Brexit isn’t the be all and end all they hope it to be, Johnson Tories may find this a much chillier race than they anticipated.