Peston the pundit brings out the sexual power of money talk

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HIS jarring inflection, awful ties and arcane knowledge of the inner workings of the financial world surely make him an unlikely sex symbol.

But Robert Peston, the BBC business editor who shot to fame after revealing that Northern Rock was on the brink of collapse, has made it in to the top ten of Britain's Sexiest Brains.

Mr Peston's coverage of the economic downturn has made his profile rocket – and appears to have set pulses racing.

Despite his strangulated diction, Mr Peston, 48, has made number seven in a Valentine's Day poll of more than 1,000 readers of Psychologies magazine.

Actor Alan Rickman was voted overall Sexiest Brain and other intellectual favourites were TV presenter Kevin McCloud, journalist Danny Wallace, comedian Michael Palin and TV cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

John Sergeant, who bowed out of Strictly Come Dancing after being kept in by the public vote despite judges' slamming his clumsy footwork, was a new entry at number 21.

Psychologies editor Maureen Rice said: "We all know we're supposed to fancy the David Beckhams of this world but we know there is more to the package – brains, wit and social intelligence all play a huge role, too."

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, fell 15 places to No 22, while David Cameron, the Conservative leader, jumped seven to 15 – one place ahead of Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.

Dr Mary Brown, lecturer in psychology at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said: "We are living in an age without heroes. What we are seeing here with Robert Peston is someone who is not afraid to tell it as it is.

"Traditionally, power was held by the man who was the most physically powerful in the tribe.

"In recent years, we had worship of men, like bankers, who made loads of money. Now what we are seeing is respect for someone who has a different sort of power.

"Peston is attractive because he is connected with power, is seen as someone who is in the know and is a bit dangerous because he is not afraid of upsetting people."

TOP 22

1 (3*) Alan Rickman

2 (1) Louis Theroux

3 (5) Kevin McCloud

4 (4) Michael Palin

5 (11) Danny Wallace

6 (9) Paul Merton

7 (new) Robert Peston

8 (16) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

9 (2) Jeremy Paxman

10 (16) Jeremy Vine

11 (30) Adrian Chiles

12 (33) David Mitchell

13 (16) Andrew Marr

14 (8) Sir David Attenborough

15 (22) David Cameron

16 (11) Boris Johnson

17 (25) Ian Hislop

18 (13) Ricky Gervais

19 (new) Dave Gorman

20 (new) Bamber Gascoigne

21 (new) John Sergeant

22 (7) Gordon Brown

*In brackets – last year's position

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