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Howe attacks book on Patten's Hong Kong years

Lord Howe, the former chancellor and foreign secretary, yesterday launched a stinging attack on Chris Patten's governorship of Honk Kong, as depicted in Jonathan Dimbleby's just-published book on the handover.

Hitting back at claims that he attempted to deal with China behind Mr Patten's back, Lord Howe (right) wrote of his "anger at such baseless allegations".

He condemned the book, The Last Governor, as "lamentable" and "ungenerous", and feared it would come to trouble Mr Patten as much as the Dimbleby book on Prince Charles must now trouble the future king.

He accused Dimbleby of making "surreal and unjust accusations of treachery and foul play by senior government ministers and civil servants" which had added "much unnecessary pain" to the emotional handover process.

"Christopher Patten's reputation, too, will suffer from his unwise decision to place the record of his governorship at the mercy of this celebrity journalist who smells `betrayal' round every corner," Lord Howe wrote in yesterday's Sunday Times.

The clear split in approaches between Mr Patten and Lord Howe towards dealing with China was evident at last month's ceremony . Howe and Sir Edward Heath were the only two senior British politicians to attend the Chinese reception, which was shunned by Mr Patten and Tony Blair.

But Lord Howe wrote that the Mr Patten was questioning the motives of almost all but himself. If his initial dealings with China had been less blunt, then the later antagonism could have been avoided. He described Dimbleby as the last governor's "Iago-like accomplice".

Dimbleby said Lord Howe's concern for China was "enhanced" by his seat on the board of GEC, which had business interests there. But Lord Howe said he had never sat on the GEC board and still less would he have allowed any commercial interest to influence his work.