Call on Patten to clear all your blockages

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 October, 1995, 12:00am

BLOCKED toilets? No problem. Just ask the Governor round for tea.

Mr Patten could get a lot more done if he could visit people 'unofficially', without his entourage and press trailing behind him. Or so he told the roughly 400 people who made up nearly a full house at the City Hall 'ask the Governor whatever you like' session last night.

For official visits, 'it's conceivable that someone will try to clear places up beforehand'. Well, you don't say.

On one such 'unofficial' visit - presumably reached by MTR? - he had been shown blocked toilets at a temporary housing area. He had 'got them dealt with', he announced.

Mr Patten is clearly at home - metaphorically, if not as he wishes, literally - with his public. Or at least, those he feels he can handle easily: protesters outside City Hall were waved at but otherwise ignored.

Inside he was constantly in command. Everyone is thanked 'very much indeed' and most people in some way are 'absolutely right': there's nothing like agreement to knock wind from a critic's sails.

An organised protest, against cuts in social workers under the Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project, sneaked inside and was positively welcomed.

'Ah, I was waiting for that,' Mr Patten beamed as about 18 perhaps rather embarrassed senior men and women unveiled T-shirts emblazoned with slogans and stood up silently at a signal from their leader.

Then he went back to answering the question at hand, leaving the protesters unsure what to do: they shouted a bit more, then trooped out, with a little Patten admonishment.

A browbeating finger-pointer who leapt in out of turn wanted him to 'do something practical, don't talk so much or steal the limelight . . . you must co-operate with the Chinese Government, don't put further obstacles in our way'.

Mr Patten, decidedly unbrowbeaten, smiled.

Housing, unemployment, training for the disabled, corruption. Some questioners were thrown figures, others were asked for addresses for further contact.

And from the hand-shaking afterwards, one felt he had, so to speak, cleared some blockages. Others, of course, remain.