17 MARCH 2007, Page 46

Jazz focus

Over the weekend I conducted a focus group on personal responses to Gordon Brown, to check whether I’m right about this. I can’t claim it was scientific; the participants were all jazz musicians with whom I happened to be drinking. But only one showed signs of being a Tory, and I put the rest down as floating voters — except for Keith, the double-bass player from Essex, whose unprovoked rant about profiteering bastards on the privatised railways sounded distinctly Old Labour. ‘Used to be,’ he agreed, ‘but I got no time for this bleedin’ lot.’ His views on Brown? ‘Unprintable’, which indeed they were, the rub being that the Chancellor was responsible for the destruction of Keith’s dad’s mate’s pension. Significantly, none of the others spoke in Brown’s defence, or admitted to admiring him or feeling good about his impending promotion. Professionally conducted focus groups anywhere south of Scotland’s central belt would, I suspect, elicit similar results. Brown’s public persona is so off-putting that the nation refuses him credit for his achievements or his deeply held beliefs — which makes him the very opposite of Blair and Cameron, and must fuel the brooding anger which in turn makes him even more rebarbative. In a way it’s tragic, but perhaps I can cheer him up with a wholly irrelevant sample of trad jazzmen’s rhyming slang. ‘Where’s yer Vlad, Martin?’ Keith asked, draining his glass after another expletivestrewn tour of the political horizon. I looked blank until the pianist whispered: ‘Keith wishes to visit your cloakroom. Vlad, Vladimir Ashkenazy, khazi.’