MPP students meet with the Chancellor of Oxford University
A 'candid and intimate conversation' was had by the Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten, with the 2012 MPP cohort on 5 October, to use the words of Rhea Fernandes, a student on the course.
'The best job I ever had' was how the Chancellor described his experiences as the last Governor of Hong Kong. Probed by questions from each of the class, it soon became clear why Lord Patten was such an enormously popular and rare colonial leader. Lord Patten talked about his enjoyment of meeting Hong Kong citizens during his renowned ‘walkabouts’. He shared insights about the successes and failure of his own leadership of Hong Kong during a time of transition, and discussed the options Hong Kong now faces in overcoming potential obstacles to democracy. When asked about Beijing's control over Hong Kong, he neatly turned the question on its head, and pointed to the risk that leaders in Hong Kong might too quickly ask for permission from Beijing on too many issues. Hong Kong, after all, is not at the top of Beijing's most urgent priorities.
In answering wide-ranging questions, he discussed the travails of life as an elected politician in the United Kingdom. He also discussed his experience chairing the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland, and bringing forward a controversial but just proposal for transforming the police. Drawing on his experiences of leadership in turbulent transitions, he forewarned the class of aspiring public servants that ‘there are very often difficult choices about principle in politics and you can’t spin your way around them’.
Lord Patten of Barnes is the current Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and Chairman of the BBC Trust. His previous roles include European Commissioner, last Governor of Hong Kong, Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister of State for International Development. He was MP for Bath from 1979 – 1992.