If there was one recurring theme among the Brits in Cannes this week, it was that with eight weeks to go until the general election nobody has any real idea what the result is likely to be.

Steve Norris

There are signs that the mood is swinging the Conservatives’ way, but no clear blue water has emerged between the Tories and Labour. The SNP seem about to decimate (literally reduce to a 10th) Labour in Scotland; Green Party leader Natalie Bennett is no doubt still reeling from giving the worst interview of modern times; and Nigel Farage has rewritten UKIP policy on immigration once again with apparently no consultation whatsoever with the rest of his party. Yet both parties continue to hold significant shares of the vote.

There is one big event still to come, of course. On 18 March, the chancellor will deliver his budget and knowing George Osborne, he won’t want to waste a golden opportunity to gain tactical advantage.

Look for a rise in the basic tax threshold or possibly a reduction in National Insurance - both of which would benefit the vast majority of us. Expect to see something to counter the claims that some big corporations are getting away with paying no corporation tax in the UK, although I hear we might also see a cut in the basic rate.

Whatever Osborne comes up with, he will gamble that it will be worth a point or two in the polls.

Nonetheless, we now assume neither major party will have an overall majority. Both appear to be in the region of 270 to 285 seats. North of the border, the SNP look like going from six to near 40, taking seats from Labour and also the Lib Dems - Alex Salmond, for example, is looking to take Sir Malcolm Bruce’s seat.

But one of the consequences of a first-past-the-post voting system is that despite polling fewer votes nationally than UKIP or the Greens, the Lib Dems will probably only drop from their current 56 seats to about 30. They will fight tactically to defend where they are well dug in and ignore the rest of the country.

There is much talk of Nick Clegg losing in Sheffield Hallam. But he defends a 15,000 majority in a part of the city that until 1997 was a Tory seat. Simon Hughes, who by rights should not hold his apparently solid Labour Bermondsey seat, may well survive, as he has done since 1983. UKIP may spoil a lot of Tory marginals, but will end up with only three or four seats at most, while the Greens will probably hold Brighton Pavilion, but that’s all.

So we are looking not at a coalition government but at a minority government. The SNP seem happy not to support either party. They reject the Tories outright and are currently fighting bitter battles with Labour with whom they have some fundamental differences.

If Clegg does survive, the Lib Dems may well prefer the devil they know and support the Tories albeit not in a formal coalition. If he doesn’t, the party might swing more to its natural home on the left. It is possible to construct an equally convincing scenario in which either Ed Miliband or David Cameron walks into Number 10 a few days after 7 May.

Most of the campaigning will be negative. It certainly won’t be pretty. And for Cameron at least, failure would mean an end to his leadership.

If he cannot beat the most unpopular prime minister of modern times and the least rated leader of the opposition, his party, always unsentimental about decapitating failures, will look elsewhere for certain.

Steve Norris is a former Conservative minister and London mayoral candidate. He is chairman of Soho Estates and the National Planning and Infrastructure Association