I once sat next to Nigel Farage during his umpteenth appearance on Question Time, the programme that helped make him a household name.
It's always a shock to a civilian to see how matey politicos are with each other when they're off air. Many have gone to university together. There are a great number of Oxbridge PPEs on both sides of the aisle now deciding our futures. Some were even once members of the same university debating societies.
I've never seen any politicos shun one another backstage at QT- no matter how they appear on camera. Except for Nick Griffin. They gave him a very wide berth indeed.
The climb up the greasy pole of politics often begins at, for example, the Oxford Union. It's designed like the floor of a mini House Of Commons and with the same rules. Our future leaders do their teething there. When I first participated in a debate at the OU, the walls were full of pics of a student William Hague. This helps give you the feeling that for many of these politicians, politics is just another choice. The journalists know who these future PMs, cabinet ministers etc are from early on. Some of them were at uni with them, too. Our politico/journo/broadcast/commentariat isn't called 'The Westminster Village' for nothing.
So it's easy to understand why everybody backstage at QT likes Farage because, well, he makes a change.
Contrary to what some people think, you never know what you're going to be asked on QT or when you'll be called to speak. Anybody who isn't nervous when they go out there is crazy. I sat next to Farage and he was just as nervous as everyone else when that theme music began. But the minute he experienced what is called in the theatre: 'the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd', he kicked in and proceeded to mow down all of us on that panel. He had that audience in the palm of his hand. He didn't talk 'at' them, but 'to' them. He'd be a natural for Shakespeare's Falstaff: bluff, straight-talking. 'Authentic'.
So what if his 'loss of control' UKIP EU 2014 election posters offend some people? He'snot talking to them/me anyway. Like Shakespeare, Farage knows his audience. Meanwhile, Cameron, Miliband and Clegg have paid for guys from abroad to help them.
Ed Miliband... well, the hiring of president Obama's election genius, David Axelrod is interesting and could be a game-changer. 'The Axe' as he's known in our joint hometown of Chicago, never brings a knife to a gun fight. Plus anybody seriously involved in politics doesn't underestimate Axelrod nor Miliband for that matter.
Clearly, 'The Axe' and his people see a wedge, just as Axlerod did when he took on the Clintons in 2007/08. Forget about him not knowing anything about UK politics. Some say that Cam's advisor Lynton Crosby, an Aussie, doesn't know anything about the British, either. That didn't stop him securing the London mayoralty for Boris. Twice. Or playing a blinder with 'Born Again Dave'. The 'UK is a Christian nation' rallying cry, the perfect 'dog whistle' political move, Crosby's speciality. It caused some very smart people on the Left to step right into the brown stuff when they reacted to it. A total masterstroke. Or like they say in Australia: "You beauty!"
Add to having Crosby on board, Cameron truly believes that he can take Miliband out; just as he believes that he can obliterate Clegg and therefore get his majority, even if a few political analysts beg to differ.
All in all, this has truly been a long, dreary, punishing Parliament, rendering Ukip the 'None Of the Above' party. Plus there's a possible treat coming for them on polling day: all this contributing to their Miley-Cyrus-of-the-political-scene-image; swinging on that wrecking ball, thumbing its nose at everyone.
Okay, it has its share of fellow-traveller whack-jobs like the man rallying people against the Twitter account: @WomenDefyUKIP just because he doesn't agree with their opinions. But people like that are always on the margins. UKIP doesn't have a monopoly on trolls like him by any means.
But you gotta pity the poor old mainstream mainly right-of-centre media right now, doing their best to make sure that Nige and Ukip look as bad as possible. The Times for example, isn't especially liked by the party at the moment. As with Miliband, too, the 'msm' go for all the weird photos/parodies of Farage that they can.
But the sands of time are running out.
So what do Shakespeare and Farage have in common? They know their audience. And play to it . To the hilt.
Shakespeare, whose 450th birthday it is today, might say, surveying today's political scene: "....the world's a stage... the men and women... players..."