Chris Patten: You Ask The Questions

The last British Governor of Hong Kong answers your questions, such as 'Should MPs earn more?' and 'What has been Hong Kong's fate since you left?'

Do you ever wish you had been the leader of the Conservative party? Would you have been good at it? Katherine Hitchcock, Shaftesbury, DORSET

If you are a tennis player, you want to win Wimbledon. So, of course, when I was active in politics I occasionally thought I'd like to get right to the top but I don't think, to be realistic, that the modern Conservative Party would ever have chosen me as leader. When I look at some other people who have done the job, I'm not overwhelmed by a sense of my own inadequacy!

Who has been the worst Tory leader since you lost your seat? Jean Heselton, Worcester

Two of them had an impossible job. John Major had to lead a party part of which was hell-bent on suicide. William Hague came to the job too young and could never have won in 2001. Michael Howard and Iain Duncan-Smith share the wooden spoon.

When you were an MP, did you make any expenses claims that you find embarrassing now? Alan Simons, Northampton

No. The allowance regime was very different in those days. If the record of my expenses claims, such as they were, was still available I would be very happy to see it published.

Should MPs be paid more? Siriol Jenkins, Llanelli, DYFED

Yes. One reason why we have got into this dreadful mess is because governments have been gutless in making a case for higher MPs' pay. MPs were in effect given a wink and a nudge that they could make up for this through generous and laxly policed allowances.

What marks would you give David Cameron out of 10 since he became leader? What about Gordon Brown since he became Prime Minister? Paul Davies, Sheffield

I don't think I should mark anyone out of 10. I think David Cameron has done very well. He is intelligent, tough and likeable. We are certainly going to need the intelligence and the toughness over the next few years. Gordon Brown has performed just about as I, and most of his colleagues in the Cabinet, would have expected.

Do you remember crying at the handover of Hong Kong? What was going through your mind? David Bayliss, Stockport

I didn't actually cry but I felt very choked. I was leaving a place my family and I loved to live in. I was leaving many friends after a very happy five years, and I had a sense I was involved in something really historic.

What do you make of Hong Kong's fate since you left? When did you last go back? Niravta Patel, London

I was last in Hong Kong in November 2008. I go back about every 18 months. Hong Kong recovered well from the Asia crash in the late 1990s. It remains a free society living under the rule of law. There is a strong sense of citizenship and a commitment to the values of pluralism, as was demonstrated this summer by the demonstrations to commemorate the killings in Tiananmen Square.

How would you feel in Ken Clarke's shoes, forced to bite your tongue on Europe if you wanted a decent job? Leslie Parsons, Teesside

I don't think Kenneth Clarke has returned to the Shadow Cabinet because he is ambitious for another job. Like many of us he wants to get rid of the Gordon Brown government.

Why do you think your party is so anti-European? Is it anything to do with right-wing xenophobia? Florence Westenrah, Dorking, Surrey

It's partly to do with a profound ignorance about the way Europe works. It is not on the way to becoming a super-state. Since the Conservative Party has said it wants to be part of the EU, it would make more sense for us to play our part in Europe more positively and strongly.

Does the rise of anti-European parties in the UK worry you? What can be done to stop it? Jane Peterson, Liverpool

The two parties that call for getting out of Europe are the fascists and Britain's version of the Poujadists in blazers. They milk the most ignorant sort of populist nonsense and pretend they are acting in the tradition of Winston Churchill. He spent much of his life fighting attitudes like theirs.

What job would you most like to do that you haven't? Finn Kempson, Bury, Lancashire

Apart from captaining the England cricket team? I suppose I would like to have been Foreign Secretary.

How have your politics changed since you left Parliament? Benjamin Dickie, Fife

I don't think my politics have changed much for years. I'm still inclined to say the same thing in public as I say in private. And I'm still strongly and sanely pro-European.

How can you oversee foreign relations for the EU when there are so many different agendas within it? Isn't it an impossible job? Michael O'Meara, St Helens, Merseyside

It's almost impossible! Foreign and security policy go right to the heart of what it means to be a nation state and there will always be as many foreign ministers in Europe as there are members of the EU, but we need to learn we pack a bigger punch when we act together, for example in dealing with economic disputes with China.

What is going to be the biggest foreign policy problem for this country in the next decade? Gary Llewellyn, Sunderland

Firstly, adjusting our spending on defence and foreign policy to what we can afford. We are going to emerge from the recession much poorer and saddled with huge debts. We have to think through rather more clearly what role we can play in the world. Secondly, we still have to decide whether we want to be an enthusiastic member of the EU or a semi-detached moaner.

As chancellor of Newcastle and Oxford universities, which would you support in a sporting fixture? Anna Rourke, Belfast

Cambridge I suppose. Fortunately, Newcastle and Oxford don't compete either in the sporting field or in research. I'm standing down as chancellor of Newcastle after 10 years. It's a very good university. I'm delighted to have been associated with it.

You've held so many jobs. Which was your favourite? Which was the least rewarding? Tom West, Exeter

I most enjoyed by time in Hong Kong. I had almost two years Secretary of State for the Environment. This should have been hugely exciting and, truth to tell, we did produce a very good White Paper on the environment and made a big breakthrough when dealing with the thinning of the ozone layer, but I had to spend too much of my time dealing with the bloody poll tax. If ever there was a hospital pass!

What do you consider your greatest achievement? And what is your biggest regret? Lisa Faulks, London

I'm proud of the job we did reorganising the police service in Northern Ireland. I'm also pleased we left behind a real sense of civic pride in Hong Kong, though alas we didn't secure democracy for the territory. That is my biggest regret.

How did you feel about your nickname in Hong Kong, Fat Peng? Phillip Gura, Chester

Very relaxed. It showed the people knew who I was and the phrase in Cantonese indicates well-being and cheerfulness, as well as girth.

Have you really never eaten a Big Mac, as you wrote recently? Would you like to try one? What about a whopper? Sara Potter, Neath, West Glamorgan

A Big Mac has never crossed my lips nor do I intend that it should do so.

What Next? Surviving The Twenty-First Century by Chris Patten is published by Penguin, price £10.99.

Next week in You Ask The Questions: Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development. You can email your questions for him to

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little