Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Friday, 29 October 2004 00:10 UK

Profile: Chris Patten

Chris Patten
Chris Patten was once tipped as a future Tory leader

The former governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, is to be made a Lord after stepping down as a European Commissioner. BBC News takes a look back at his career.

Once tipped as a future party leader, the pro-European Conservative appeared to rule out a return to British politics in a BBC interview in 2000.

The European commissioner, who lost his seat as MP for Bath in 1992, said he planned to retire, taking up writing, broadcasting and do some "serious gardening".

"This is the last public service job I will do. When I finish it, I will be 60 and I would like to enjoy my sixties as much as I can," he said.

"I don't want to hang around in politics forever.

"I have had two or three extraordinarily interesting jobs since losing my seat, but this will be the last one."

Election winner

The former party chairman was credited with winning the 1992 general election for John Major.

But as a result he had little time to devote to his own constituency and ended up losing his own seat.

As a reward Mr Major offered him the post as the last governor of Hong Kong, in preparation for the return of the colony to China in 1997.

Chris Patten and John Major in Downing Street after winning the 1992 general election
Mr Patten (left) helped mastermind the Tory 1992 election victory

He later described the job as the experience that shaped him for the rest of his life.

Soon after arriving he quickly ruffled Chinese feathers by announcing proposals for the democratic reform of Hong Kong's institutions a few months into his tenure.

Beijing was outraged it had not been consulted and threatened to tear up business contracts and overturn the reforms when it took control of the colony.

The crisis in relations caused the Hong Kong stock market to crash in December 1992.

Reforms were eventually introduced 18 months later after numerous rounds of negotiations.

And Mr Patten's tough stand won him many admirers outside Beijing.

'Fatty pang'

But relations between Mr Patten and the Chinese authorities remained strained. Chinese officials and media came up with a variety of insults including, most infamously, the nickname "fatty pang".

Nevertheless, the handover of Hong Kong to China in June 1997 was largely seen as a great success, and few will forget the sight of Mr Patten crying as the Union flag was taken down.

Mr Patten entered politics early. He joined the UK's Conservative Party research office after graduating from Oxford University.

Chris Patten effigy
Sri Lankan protesters make their opinion of Mr Patten plain

He was elected MP for Bath in 1979, and spent most of the 1980s serving in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's governments.

Mr Patten was appointed parliamentary under-secretary for Northern Ireland in 1983, before moving to the Department of Education.

He then became the overseas development minister before gaining a Cabinet seat in 1989 as environment secretary. He was appointed chairman of the Conservative Party in 1990.victory.

After returning to the UK from Hong Kong, he was appointed by the new Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to head the independent commission on policing in Northern Ireland.

The report recommended a radical overhaul of the service, and came under considerable fire from Ulster Unionists who objected to proposals for a name change, a new badge, a new oath of allegiance and a new flag.

Since September 1999 Mr Patten has served as a member of the European Commission, responsible for foreign affairs and external relations.

He aroused controversy in 2000 when it was suggested in the press that he found the job boring.

And as an EU envoy to Sri Lanka in November 2003, his meeting with Tamil Tiger rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran sparked protests.

About 100 protesters burnt an effigy of Mr Patten, saying he had given the Tigers legitimacy by meeting their leader.

Brussels bureaucracy

Mr Patten has criticised what he considers the endemic waste and fraud of the European Union's foreign aid programmes and the slowness of Brussels bureaucracy.

In June he pulled out of the race to succeed Romano Prodi as president of the EU Commission after strong opposition from France and Germany.

As Chancellor of both Oxford and Newcastle universities, Mr Patten has remained in the news.

He criticised the government's plans for admission targets for state school pupils as amounting to "social engineering", but has defended the need for university fees.

He and fellow commissioner Neil Kinnock will take seats in the Lords once the new European Commission is in place.

Kinnock and Patten get peerages
29 Oct 04 |  UK Politics
Patten attacks university targets
14 Oct 04 |  Education
Patten quits EU presidential race
19 Jun 04 |  UK Politics
EU envoy supports Sri Lanka peace
26 Nov 03 |  South Asia
Hong Kong government shake-up
15 Feb 01 |  Asia-Pacific
Chris Patten: Reflections on Hong Kong
30 Jun 98 |  Hong Kong Handover Anniversary
Patten rules out comeback
03 Dec 00 |  Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific