Scottish Tory MPs have warned that the party will be “punished” if the country goes to the polls in winter, when short days and bad weather will hamper campaigners and keep voters at home.
Boris Johnson has challenged opposition parties to bring a motion of no confidence in his government, goading them into an election that could be the only way to end the Brexit deadlock in Parliament.
A winter election would be only the second in the UK in a century, with the last December poll being held in 1918. Scottish Tories are already facing dire polling forecasts following the resignation of their leader Ruth Davidson, with the party predicted to lose as many as ten of their 13 MPs.
One Scottish Tory MP suggested his party and Labour should hold talks on putting off a vote until the New Year, when the trial of former SNP leader Alex Salmond is expected to begin.
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly admitted in remarks to The Scotsman that the government had no control over when an election could take place – and that Mr Johnson’s preferred option of a vote before Brexit was probably out of reach.
Speaking at the Tory conference in Manchester, Scottish Tories warned about the impact on campaigning and turnout from a midwinter election.
“If we ask people to go to the polls in the last week of November or the first two weeks of December, every politician across the country will be punished by the electorate,” one MP said.
“If there’s anything the British people don’t want, it’s having their Christmas spoiled.”
"Tractors and Land Rovers to get out the votes"
Another Scottish MP voiced concern about turnout in a winter election, with poor weather, short days and dangerous road conditions, but joked: “At least we’re the Tories, we have the tractors and Land Rovers to get out the vote.”
Mr Cleverly, who has spent time living near Aboyne in Aberdeenshire, admitted a winter election was not ideal.
“There’s a reason why we traditionally have elections in the spring,” he said. “I’ve overwintered in the Dee Valley, up in the Cairngorms. And I know that they can be brutal.
“What is absolutely clear, is that the current impasse cannot go on. The government has been prevented from delivering on the priorities of the British people, by political parties who want to dictate from the sidelines, but don’t even have the courage to say, let us be the government. It is really the worst of both worlds.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat general election chair and Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Once an extension has been approved and a no deal Brexit is off the table, Scottish Liberal Democrats are looking forward to taking our clear pitch to voters: We will stop Brexit and keep Scotland in both the UK and the EU.
“It’s no wonder the Scottish Conservatives are scared to face the electorate. They have totally capitulated to Boris Johnson.”