Brandreth keeps smiling on the way to high office: Chris Blackhurst on the career of a man best known for kissing and colourful pullovers

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The Independent Online
AMID a sea of grey on the Conservative back benches, there is no mistaking Gyles Brandreth, the MP for Chester.

Famous for his lurid pullovers which he wore with gusto when he presented TV-am's low-brow Good Morning Britain for seven years, he has toned down his appearance since entering the Commons in April 1992. And he has given up trying to set a new world kissing record - an on-screen three minutes and 33 seconds was one of his many claims to fame, with Cheryl Baker of the pop group Bucks Fizz.

Now 45, he still talks nineteen to the dozen, still wears a huge cheesy grin, and still greets strangers with 'Hello, I'm Gyles Brandreth' - as if they are supposed to know who he is. He moves around the Commons at break-neck speed, always making a noise, creating a stir.

He is in short the natural successor to Jeffrey Archer. The similarity does not stop there. Mr Brandreth and his wife, Michele, are passionate about teddy bears, so much so that they put their 600- strong collection on display in Stratford-upon-Avon. Among its star attractions was a one-eyed bear on loan from Lord Archer.

He has the best-selling author's boundless energy. His CV is breath-taking: president of the Oxford Union; journalist on ISIS, the student magazine; lead columnist on Woman, with the slogan 'Has heart, will write'; founder of the National Scrabble Championship; author of the books Great Sexual Disasters and Wit Knits, about jumpers.

It would be foolish to under-estimate him: he is passionate about politics. He was once asked to list his ambitions. 'To be a sort of Danny Kaye and then Home Secretary.'

The first, allowing for the use of the words 'sort of', he has arguably already achieved. The second may take a while. There is, however, no denying his intent. Within a year of entering the Commons, he had already gained a toehold on the ministerial ladder, as parliamentary private secretary.

For all his enthusiasm, his public Commons interventions have been relatively rare - mainly because of his new responsibility. As PPS, he is expected to guard Mr Dorrell's back, to act as his eyes and ears at Westminster; he is not expected to make pronouncements on Government policy or predict the contents of the Budget or comment on economic matters.

His lips are more or less sealed - which is just how he, and possibly the Government, would like them to be.