Gyles Brandreth: ‘I’m disappointed – I wanted to be Prime Minister’

The writer, broadcaster and ex-Conservative MP talks political ambitions, Scrabble and Roger Moore's eyebrows in his Letter To My Younger Self

Gyles Brandreth is no stranger to dabbling.

In his time he has notched up more than 300 appearances on Countdown’s Dictionary Corner, penned a book on the marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip and served time as a Conservative MP in the Nineties.

With such an eclectic and formidable CV, you would have thought that 16-year-old Gyles would have been impressed with what his older self had packed into his 71 years on earth. Not so, says Gyles.

“If I could go back and tell my teenage self what he’s achieved as an adult I don’t think he’d be impressed at all,” he tells The Big Issue in this week’s Letter To My Younger Self. “In fact I think he’d be disappointed. I wanted to be Prime Minister. Indeed there will be people reading this who wish I was Prime Minister. Brackets; you had your chance, the people spoke – the bastards – and I moved on. No longer available. I loved being an MP, I found my five years [between 1992 and 1997] fascinating.”


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

Throughout his lengthy and varied career, one thing has stood as a constant for Gyles – his love of the spoken word. And sometimes it has manifested itself in unusual ways, as he explains to The Big Issue.

He said: “The founder of my school was a man called John Badley. When I was 16 and he was 99 I used to go and play Scrabble with him. He beat me at every game. I became fascinated with words. I went on to found the National Scrabble Championships which, 50 years later, are still going on. I was for some years a director of Spear’s Games, who make Scrabble. As you see yet again, I never moved on from the person I was when I was 16.”

Read more from Gyles in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available from vendors and The Big Issue Shop now.

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
Find your vendor
Heroes Will Rise: Get ready for the Homeless World Cup

Images: Camera Press / Chris McAndrew