London's Daily Mail newspaper today called them "the new Gucci comrades" who have ushered in something called "Chequers chic."

The comrades are Mikhail Gorbachev, 53, widely regarded as the Kremlin's second-in-command, and his wife, Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev, 51.

They have been visiting England for the past five days and, whatever heavy political and diplomatic consequences eventually grow out of the visit, the Gorbachevs seem to be succeeding thus far in one potentially very important way.

They are putting a much more modern, stylish and, for the most part, friendly face on the traditionally dour, dull and aged image of Soviet leadership. And their British hosts seem to like it.

"Even Margaret Thatcher says she likes him, for goodness sake," sighed the skeptical Daily Star newspaper today in a reference to the Conservative British prime minister that Moscow once dubbed "The Iron Lady" because of her hard-line anti-Soviet stance. "And she usually doesn't like US much, let alone THEM," the perplexed newspaper observed.

"I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together," Thatcher told the British Broadcasting Corp. this week after five hours of private talks at the prime minister's country retreat at Chequers on Sunday.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who western analysts believe is the heir-apparent to 73-year-old President Konstantin Chernenko, has done most of his talking here through official statements or in closed-door appearances. Reporters have been kept away from him.

But those who have met Gorbachev here invariably describe him as bright, authoritative, with a good sense of humor and a quick and friendly smile -- and a natty dresser in pin-stripe suits, trilby hats and tailored overcoats. He perhaps was best described as looking like "an expensive lawyer."

On a guided tour of the British Museum, where Karl Marx once wrote most of "Das Kapital," Gorbachev reportedly startled an American student and told him that people who don't like Marxism should blame the British Museum.

It is Raisa Gorbachev, however, who suddenly has emerged from the almost total obscurity of Kremlin wives to complete the picture of a more modern face on Soviet leaders.

"What a contrast to the previous glimpses we have had of other senior Russian wives in the past . . . who looked as though they should be building dams in Siberia," wrote a columnist in the 3.3-million circulation Daily Mirror. She is "far from the cartoonist's idea of a Kremlin wife," said the Sunday Observer.

In many cases, Kremlin wives are not even seen. The first public appearance of the late president Yuri Andropov's wife was at his funeral.

The trim, stylishly dressed and energetic Raisa Gorbachev, a graduate of Moscow University with a degree in philosophy, has clearly charmed her British hosts and is getting, along with her husband, an extraordinary degree of publicity here.

"Not since Nikita Krushchev arrived in Washington to meet Eisenhower in a knife-creased Italian suit and loafers have pin-stripes and leather made headlines to match missiles and detente," wrote the 1.8-million circulation Daily Mail today.

Raisa Gorbachev, who confided that she has a 4-year-old grandchild, speaks a few words of English. When some reporters saw her leaving Parliament the other day, she stopped to smile and say: "I like very much. Goodbye. Goodbye. I see you later. I see you later."

Then it was off to Marks and Spencer, London's famous bargain department store, for some Christmas shopping. But after eyeing a slate-gray leather outfit, she patted her pocketbook, left the rubles there, and departed.

Whether all this generally favorable western television and newspaper publicity during a week-long visit will help or hinder the Gorbachevs is one of the unanswered, yet most interesting, questions surrounding this first visit of a top-ranking Soviet to Britain in almost a decade.

On one hand, diplomats say, the visit clearly gives a modern look to Soviet diplomacy and leadership. But too many pictures of shopping in London or too much favorable publicity in the West may also play into the hands of Gorbachev's opponents in Moscow. This is a delicate matter for the British hosts as well, who do not want to appear too enthusiastic or too reserved.

If Gorbachev was worried about too much good publicity here, however, he probably did himself some good in Moscow by his sharp retort Tuesday to a question by a British member of Parliament about religious persecution in the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev's response -- a charge that Britain "persecutes entire communities, nationalities" -- provoked The Daily Star today to print a rather sinister-looking picture of Gorbachev and to remind its 1.3 million readers that the Kremlin's number two isn't "Father Christmas."