Chris Patten

Not to be confused with John Patten, Baron Patten.
The Right Honourable
The Lord Patten of Barnes
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Assumed office
20 September 2003
Deputy Colin Lucas
John Hood
Andrew Hamilton
Louise Richardson
Preceded by Roy Jenkins
Chairman of the BBC Trust
In office
1 May 2011  6 May 2014
Deputy Diane Coyle
Preceded by Michael Lyons
Succeeded by Diane Coyle (Acting)
Chancellor of Newcastle University
In office
5 October 1999  5 October 2009
Preceded by Matthew White Ridley
Succeeded by Liam Donaldson
European Commissioner for External Relations
In office
16 September 1999  22 November 2004
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Leon Brittan (External Relations and Trade)
Succeeded by Benita Ferrero-Waldner
28th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
9 July 1992  30 June 1997
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by David Wilson
Succeeded by Post defunct

Tung Chee-hwa as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
28 November 1990  11 May 1992
Leader John Major
Preceded by Kenneth Baker
Succeeded by Norman Fowler
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
28 November 1990  10 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Kenneth Baker
Succeeded by William Waldegrave
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
24 July 1989  28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Nicholas Ridley
Succeeded by Michael Heseltine
Minister for Overseas Development
In office
10 September 1986  24 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Timothy Raison
Succeeded by Lynda Chalker
Member of Parliament
for Bath
In office
3 May 1979  10 April 1992
Preceded by Edward Brown
Succeeded by Don Foster
Personal details
Born (1944-05-12) 12 May 1944
Cleveleys, UK
Political party Conservative (Before 2011)
Crossbench (2011–present)
Spouse(s) Lavender Thornton
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]

Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, CH, PC (born 12 May 1944) is a Crossbench member of the British House of Lords and a former British Conservative politician until 2011, as Member of the British Parliament for Bath from 1979 to 1992. He first became a junior British Government minister in 1986, and became a member of the Cabinet from 1989 to 1992, and also formerly Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992, and he was also a European Commissioner from 1999 to 2004. He is also the last (the 28th) British Governor of Hong Kong, from 1992 to 1997. In addition, he is also formerly the Governor of the BBC Trust from 2011 to 2014. Currently, he is also the Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003.

As Conservative party chairman, he orchestrated the Conservatives' unexpected fourth consecutive electoral victory in 1992, but unexpectedly, he lost his own seat in the House of Commons, in Bath.

He then accepted the final (the twenty-eighth) Governorship of Hong Kong until the territory's handover to China on 1 July 1997. As Governor, Patten presided over a steady rise in the living standards of Hong Kongers while encouraging a significant expansion of Hong Kong's social welfare system.[2]

From 1999 to 2004 he served as one of the United Kingdom's two members of the European Commission. He returned to the UK and became Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 2003. He was made a life peer in 2005. On 7 April 2011 Queen Elizabeth II approved Patten's appointment as the Chairman of the BBC Trust, the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation.[3] Patten held the position until his resignation on grounds of ill-health on 6 May 2014.[4]

Early life

Patten's father, Frank, a jazz-drummer turned popular-music publisher and his mother Joan sent him to a Catholic primary school, Our Lady of the Visitation, in Greenford, and later to the independent St Benedict's School in Ealing, west London, where he won an Exhibition to read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford—the first member of his family to attend university.

After graduating (with a top First) in 1965, Patten worked for the campaign of then-Republican New York Mayor John Lindsay, where he reported on the television performance of rival William F. Buckley, Jr.[5] He worked for the Conservative Party from 1966, first as desk officer and then director (from 1974 to 1979) of the Conservative Research Department.

Member of Parliament

Patten stood unsuccessfully at Lambeth Central in February 1974, being beaten by Labour's Marcus Lipton. He was elected Member of Parliament for Bath from 1979 to 1992.

In government

Patten served as Minister for Overseas Development at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 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 Community Charge (or so-called "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 marginal seat of Bath to the Liberal Democrat candidate Don Foster in 1992. Patten's defeat was attributed to several factors: the Poll Tax that he implemented, and his other commitments which prevented him from campaigning in his constituency.

Governor of Hong Kong

If Patten had been re-elected in 1992, sections of the media thought he would 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.

Patten turned down offers of a new seat and instead, in July 1992, he became the 28th and the last Governor of Hong Kong until its transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China on 30 June 1997. He was given an official Chinese name, Pang Ding-hong (Chinese: 彭定康), a name with an etymology based on the words "stability" and "health". Unlike most previous Hong Kong Governors, he was not a career diplomat from the UK Foreign Office although he was not the first former MP to become a Governor of Hong Kong.[6]

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 Fatty Pang (Chinese: 肥彭), making him the only governor to have a widely recognised Chinese nickname.[7] Patten was also the only British Governor of the colony not to wear the official Windsor uniform (also known as the Court uniform).

Patten's most controversial actions in Hong Kong are related to the 1994 Hong Kong electoral reform. Legco members returned in 1995 were originally to serve beyond the handover, thereby providing institutional continuity across the transition 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.

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 some Chinese media as the 'whore of the East,' a 'serpent' and a 'wrongdoer who would be condemned for a thousand generations' (Chinese: 千古罪人).[8] 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 (Chinese: 臨時立法會) which was unconstitutional and without any democratic functions involved in until elections were held under the previous rules in 1998.

However, Patten's institutional reform gained unprecedented support in Hong Kong. Some of the pro-democracy camp members supported him and his institutional reform 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. Notwithstanding the electoral controversy, even some of his critics admired his eloquence and praised his efforts to raise the level of debate in the colony.

At 00:00 HKT 1 July 1997 (16:00 GMT, 30 June 1997), he sent the following telegram:

I have relinquished the administration of this government. God Save The Queen. Patten.[9]

This marked the end of British rule in Hong Kong, and the British Empire. After the handover ceremony he left the city, together with Prince Charles, on board the British royal yacht, HMY Britannia. Patten was noted to be in tears throughout the day, notably after his speech at Tamar.[10]

After Hong Kong

Styles of
The Right Honourable
Christopher Patten
Governor of Hong Kong

Reference style His Excellency
Spoken style Your Excellency
Alternative style Sir

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 and popularly known as the Patten Report, which contained 175 symbolic and practical recommendations.[11] This report led to the renaming 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 organisation which works to promote good governance around the world. On 23 May 2005 he was appointed by Cadbury as a non-executive director.[12]

European Commissioner

In 1999, he was appointed as one of the United Kingdom's two members to the European Commission 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 Common Foreign and Security Policy. 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 France and Germany.

According to information from WikiLeaks Patten was in Moscow in April 2004, and had concluded EU-Russia ministerial consultations in Brussels. He considered that the EU had become overly dependent on Russian energy supplies, and should become more engaged with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia in order to diversify supplies.[13]

According to information from the US Embassy in Brussels (published by Wikileaks in November 2010): Patten said in April 2004 that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done a good job for Russia mainly due to high world energy prices, but he had serious doubts about the man’s character. Cautioning that “I’m not saying that genes are determinant,” Patten then reviewed the Putin family history – grandfather part of Lenin’s special protection team; father a communist party apparatchik, and Putin himself decided at a young age to pursue a career in the KGB. “He seems a completely reasonable man when discussing the Middle East or energy policy, but when the conversation shifts to Chechnya or Islamic extremism, Putin’s eyes turn to those of a killer.”

University roles and elevation to the peerage

Patten in ceremonial dress as the Chancellor of the University of Oxford

Patten was Chancellor of Newcastle University from 1999 to 2009, and was elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 2003. In 2016, in the wake of a student movement to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from a College in Oxford, as had happened in South Africa, Patten said that Oxford students who didn't like Cecil Rhodes should "think about being educated elsewhere".[14]

On 11 January 2005 Patten was created a life peer as Baron Patten of Barnes, of Barnes in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.[15]

Chairman of the BBC Trust

On the advice of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Patten was appointed by the Queen-in-Council as Chairman of the BBC Trust, and he took office on 1 May 2011, in the place of Sir Michael Lyons whose contract was not renewed.

BBC royal river pageant outside broadcast

As Chairman of the BBC Trust, Patten joined the Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family in the royal box for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert. It came, however, immediately in the wake of widespread criticism of the BBC's live outside-broadcast coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June 2012, which was castigated in the press and was the subject of 1,830 formal complaints by viewers. Patten said afterwards the Royal Pageant had not been the BBC's "finest hour" and admitted that "The tone was wrong."[16]

Jimmy Savile scandal

Patten (right) with Leo, brother of Boris Johnson, 2011

In October 2012 ITV broadcast a documentary revealing that the late Sir Jimmy Savile, a prominent BBC performer and children's television presenter for more than thirty years, had been a serial child-abuser and rapist. Police subsequently received more than 400 complaints from alleged former victims. After an initially faltering response, the BBC announced the setting up of two independently-led inquiries, one to examine why the BBC's "Newsnight" programme had dropped its own investigation into Savile in 2011, and a second inquiry into the BBC’s "culture and practices" in the years that Savile worked there and whether BBC child-protection and whistleblowing policies were good enough.

On 28 October an article by Patten, as Chairman of the BBC Trust, appeared in the Mail on Sunday newspaper in which he reiterated a public apology over the Savile affair. Patten said "Today, like many who work for the BBC, I feel a sense of particular remorse that abused women spoke to "Newsnight", presumably at great personal pain, yet did not have their stories told as they expected. On behalf of the BBC, I apologise unreservedly". He went on to say "The BBC risks squandering public trust because one of its stars over three decades was apparently a sexual criminal; because he used his programme and popularity as a cover for his wickedness; because he used BBC premises for some of his attacks; and because others – BBC employees and hangers-on – may also have been involved." Patten posed the question "Can it really be the case that no one knew what he was doing?" Patten said Savile had been "received into the heart of the Establishment; feted from Chequers to the Vatican; friend to Royals and editors. How did we let it happen? And could someone like this con us all again?" Patten declared "The BBC must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible".[17]


Patten submitted his letter of resignation as BBC Trust Chairman to the Secretary of State on 6 May 2014; citing health reasons following his heart bypass surgery on 28 April.[18] BBC Trust Vice Chairman Diane Coyle took over as Acting Chairman until the appointment of a new chairman.

In May 2016, Patten said that the BBC has “lost some of its ambition” in its coverage of science, philosophy and history, and should “stretch” audiences more. Patten, bemoaned the fact that much of the corporation’s high-brow programming had been moved to BBC Four, the digital channel, and given low budgets that meant shows were “sometimes made with glue and string”. In a speech on the future of the BBC, which he said was “one of this country’s greatest institutions”, Patten called on ministers to respect the “besieged” broadcaster’s independence, and set in place measures to stop it becoming “the plaything of the government of the day".[19]


In February 2010, Patten was appointed President of Medical Aid for Palestinians, but he stepped down in June 2011.[20]

Personal life

Patten married Lavender Thornton, a barrister, in 1971.[21] They have three daughters, Kate, Laura (married to Elton Charles), and Alice Patten (actress, married to Tim Steed). They also have two Norfolk terriers, Whisky and Soda.

On 29 September 2005, he published his memoirs, Not Quite the Diplomat: Home Truths About World Affairs. In October 2009, Patten was Chief Guest at The Doon School, a boarding school in Dehradun, India, which is a member of the United Kingdom's Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.[22]

Patten is a Roman Catholic and oversaw Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom in September 2010. In 2010, The Tablet named him as one of Britain’s most influential Roman Catholics.[23]

In 2014 Pope Francis appointed Patten to head a body to advise the Vatican on media strategy and on how to handle the press.

In the media

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

Patten and his time in Hong Kong was the subject of the 5-part documentary series "The Last Governor", which was filmed throughout his time in Hong Kong, including his arrival, key moments of his government such as the 1995 elections and his final day in office, ending as he departs Government House for the last time.

The 1996 Hong Kong parody film Bodyguards of Last Governor, presents 'Christ Pattern' as the Governor of Hong Kong. In addition to the name, Pattern appears to be based heavily on Patten, matching his appearance, political affiliation (Conservative) and family (a wife and two daughters with him in Hong Kong). His role however is minor as the film depicts him being replaced with one month to go before the Handover. He is portrayed by Noel Lester Rands.[24]


In the 1998 New Year Honours, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Companion of Honour (CH).[25]

In 2003 he was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Bath. In September 2005 he was elected a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of Massey College in the University of Toronto (the only person so elected except for the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, the Duke of Edinburgh) as well as receiving an honorary D.S.Litt. degree from the University of Trinity College, Toronto and an honorary D.Litt. degree from the University of Ulster.[26] In March 2009, Patten received the title Doctor honoris causa by South East European University.


See also



  1. "The Search for Peace: Chris Patten". BBC News Northern Ireland. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  2. The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong by Jonathan Dimbleby
  3. "New Chairman and Vice Chairman appointed to the BBC'". Prime Minister's Office. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  4. "Lord Patten to stand down from BBC for health reasons". BBC News. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  5. Hilton, Isabel, "Profile: For God and the right", The Independent, 14 November 1993
  6. Sir John Bowring (Governor of Hong Kong 1854–1859) and Sir John Pope Hennessy (Governor of Hong Kong 1877–1882) - a Conservative MP before he entered the Colonial Service - were predecessors.
  7. "'India is a big priority' at Oxford". Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  8. "彭定康:寬宏對待中國罵名". BBC News. 4 April 2002. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  9. Chris Patten: from 'double whammy' to 'Fat Pang', Channel 4 News, 6 September 2013
  10. "BBC ON THIS DAY | 1 | 1997: Hong Kong fireworks". BBC News. 1 July 1997. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  11. "CAIN: The Patten Report on Policing: Summary of Recommendations, 9 September 1999". 9 September 1999. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  12. Archived 15 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Archived 3 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Espinoza, Javier. "Oxford University students who don't like Cecil Rhodes should 'think about being educated elsewhere', says chancellor". The Telegraph. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  15. The London Gazette: no. 57533. p. 449. 17 January 2005.
  16. Grice, Elizabeth (19 July 2012). "Lord Patten: 'It's not the BBC's job to be jokey'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  17. Patten, Lord (27 October 2012). "Can it REALLY be that no one inside the smug BBC knew what that psychopath was doing? Chairman questions the corporation he represents". Daily Mail. London.
  18. "BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten to stand down". BBC Trust. London. 5 May 2014.
  19. "Lord Patten steps down as MAP President". Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  20. Archived 4 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. "The Doon School Weekly" (PDF). 10 October 2009. Retrieved 2015-03-17.
  22. "The Tablet's Top 100".
  23. The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997: A Reference Guide to 1,100 Films Produced by British Hong Kong Studios, John Charles, McFarland, 2000, page 35
  24. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54993. p. 26. 31 December 1997.
  25. "University Of Ulster News Release – UU Unveils Summer Honorary Graduates". 28 February 2005. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  26. Read (1 October 2008). "The pragmatic approach". Archived from the original on 12 January 2009. Retrieved 2015-03-17.


Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Christopher Patten
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Brown
Member of Parliament
for Bath

Succeeded by
Don Foster
Political offices
Preceded by
Timothy Raison
Minister for Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Lynda Chalker
Preceded by
Nicholas Ridley
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by
Michael Heseltine
Preceded by
Kenneth Baker
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
William Waldegrave
Preceded by
Leon Brittan
as European Commissioner for External Relations and Trade
British European Commissioner
Served alongside: Neil Kinnock
Succeeded by
Peter Mandelson
European Commissioner for External Relations
Succeeded by
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Party political offices
Preceded by
Kenneth Baker
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Norman Fowler
Government offices
Preceded by
The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn
Governor of Hong Kong
Post defunct
rendered by the Hong Kong Act 1985 (1985 c. 15), Section 1, s.s. 1 & 2

Academic offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Ridley
Chancellor of Newcastle University
Succeeded by
Liam Donaldson
Preceded by
The Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Media offices
Preceded by
Michael Lyons
Chairman of the BBC Trust
Succeeded by
Diane Coyle
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