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Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, CH, PC (born 12 May 1944 in Cleveleysmarker, Lancashiremarker) is a prominent British Conservative politician and a Patron of the Tory Reform Group.

He was a Member of Parliament, eventually rising to a cabinet minister and party chairman. In the latter capacity, he orchestrated the Conservatives' unexpected fourth consecutive electoral victory in 1992, but lost his own seat in the House of Commonsmarker.

He then accepted the post of last Commander-in-Chief and British Governor of Hong Kong, a post which came to an end after Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in July 1997. From 2000 to 2004 he served as one of Britain's two members of the European Commissionmarker. After leaving that post, he returned to the UK and was elevated to the peerage in 2005. He is the Chancellor of the University of Oxfordmarker.

Early life

Chris Patten was educated at the independent St Benedict's Schoolmarker in Ealingmarker, West London, and at Balliol College, Oxfordmarker. He worked in the Conservative Party from 1966, first as desk officer and then director (from 1974 to 1979) of the Conservative Research Department.

Member of Parliament

In government

Patten was a Member of Parliament from 1979 to 1992, serving as Minister for Overseas Development at the Foreign and Commonwealth Officemarker from 1986 to 1989.

In 1989 he was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment and became responsible for the unpopular Poll Tax. Though he robustly defended the policy at the time, in his 2006 book Not Quite the Diplomat (published in the United States as Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain and Europe in the New Century) he claims to have thought it was a mistake on Margaret Thatcher's part. He also introduced, and steered through Parliament, the major legislation that became the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

In 1990, John Major made Patten Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Chairman of the Conservative Party, with responsibility for organising the coming general election campaign. As party chairman, he was widely considered to be the main architect of the somewhat unexpected Conservative victory in the 1992 election. However, he lost his seat for Bathmarker to the Liberal Democrat candidate, Don Foster, in 1992. Patten's defeat was attributed to several factors; the Poll Tax that he implemented which was especially unpopular in his constituency, and his duties as party chairman that prevented him from much local campaigning.

Governor of Hong Kong

Had Patten been re-elected in 1992, he might have been rewarded by appointment as Foreign Secretary, although in his autobiography John Major said that he would have made Patten Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, in the three weeks leading up to the election, many party insiders sensed that Patten would lose his seat, and Major was considering a patronage appointment.

In any event, in July 1992, he became the 28th and the last Governor of Hong Kongmarker until its handover to the People's Republic of Chinamarker on 30 June 1997. He was given an official Chinese name, Pang Ting Hong/Peng Dingkang ( ), a name with an etymology based on the words "stability" and "health", before which he was known in Hong Kong as "BRIT" with an imperialist taint. Unlike most previous Hong Kong Governors, he was not a career bureaucrat from the UK Foreign Office but a politician. However, he was not the first former MP to become a Governor of Hong Kong: that was John Bowring (Governor of Hong Kong 1854–1859). Also, John Pope Hennessy (Governor of Hong Kong 1877-1882), was a Conservative MP before he entered Colonial Service.

Patten's tenure faced several different challenges, as many in Hong Kong were still reeling from the Tiananmen Square Massacre a few years earlier, while others were suspicious of whether or not the British would act in their best interest. However the general opinion regarded him positively. He took steps to get in touch with the people of the colony, and was known for his penchant for taking public strolls around Hong Kong as well as in the media limelight. Hong Kong affectionately nicknamed him Fat Pang or Fei Peng ( ), making him the only governor to have a Chinese nickname.

Patten's most controversial actions are related to the election of the Hong Kong Legislative Councilmarker. Legco members returned in 1995 were originally to serve beyond the handover, thereby providing institutional continuity across the reversion of Hong Kong to the PRC. Beijing had expected that the use of functional constituencies with limited electorates would be used to elect this council, however Patten extended the definition of functional constituencies and thus virtually every Hong Kong subject was able to vote for the so-called indirectly elected members (see Politics of Hong Kong) of the Legislative Council.

Not surprisingly, his measure was strongly criticised by the pro-Beijing political parties of Hong Kong, which would suffer from the electoral changes . Patten was also denounced by the PRC government as the 'whore of the East,' a 'serpent' and a 'criminal who would be condemned for a thousand generations' ( ). The legislative council which was elected under Patten's governorship was dissolved upon the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC and replaced by a Provisional Legislative Council ( ) which functioned until elections were held under the previous rules in 1998.

However, Patten's institutional reform gained unprecedented support in Hong Kong and the criticism from the PRC government raised his popularity to a level he had not previously enjoyed in the UK; he was widely seen as standing up for the colony's rights . Not withstanding the electoral controversy, even some of his critics admired his eloquence and praised his efforts to raise the level of debate in the colony. Ending up, the PRC did bow to pressure and after the handover, an increasing portion of seats in the Legco would be directly elected.

At 00:00 HKT/16:00 GMT, 1 July 1997, he sent the following telegram:

OF THIS GOVERNMENT. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. PATTEN.This marked the end of British rule in Hong Kong and after the handover ceremony he left the city, together with Prince Charles, on board the British royal yacht, HMY Britanniamarker. Few forget Patten crying after his speech at the Hong Kong Handover in 1997.

Post governorship

In 1998, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Companion of Honour. From 1998 to 1999, he chaired the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland, better known as the Patten Commission, which had been established in 1998 as part of the Belfast Agreement. On 9 September 1999, the Commission produced its report, entitled A New Beginning: Policing in Northern Ireland but popularly known as the Patten Report, which contained 175 symbolic and practical recommendations. This report led to the re-naming of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He is the co-chair of International Crisis Group, overseeing many international operations. He is also a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, an organization which works to promote good governance around the world. On 23 May 2005 he was appointed by Cadbury (formerly Cadbury's) as a non-executive director.

European Commissioner

In 1999, he was appointed as one of the United Kingdom's two members to the European Commissionmarker as Commissioner for External Relations where he was responsible for the Union's development and co-operation programmes, as well as liaison with Javier Solana, the High Representative of the CFSP. He held this position within the Prodi Commission from 23 January 2000 until 22 November 2004. Patten oversaw many crises in the area of European foreign policy, most notably the failure of the European Union to come up with a common unified policy before the Iraq war in 2003. Although nominated for the post of President in the next Commission in 2004, he was unable to gain support from Francemarker and Germanymarker.

University roles and elevation to the Peerage

Patten was Chancellor of Newcastle Universitymarker from 1999 to 2009, and elected Chancellor of the University of Oxfordmarker in 2003. In 2005 he was raised to the Peerage as Baron Patten of Barnes, of Barnesmarker in the London Borough of Richmondmarker. In September 2005 he was elected a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of Massey Collegemarker in the University of Torontomarker (the only person so elected except for the Chancellor of the University of Cambridgemarker and the University of Edinburgh, the Duke of Edinburgh) as well as receiving an honorary Doctorate of Sacred Letters from the University of Trinity Collegemarker, Torontomarker and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Ulster. In March 2009, Patten received the title Doctor Honoris Causa by South East European University.

Personal life

Lord Patten of Barnes is married to Lavender, who is a barrister. They have three daughters, Kate, Laura (married to Elton Charles), and Alice Patten (actress); and two Norfolk terriers, Whisky and Soda.

On 29 September 2005, he published his memoirs, Not Quite the Diplomat: Home Truths About World Affairs.

In the media

Patten was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.





External links

Offices held

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