Dunn shock absorbed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 June, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 June, 1995, 12:00am

BARONESS Dunn has adopted a more retiring public style since the arrival of Chris Patten, so her departure will cause less of a shock to the political scene than it would have done had she resigned from an Executive Council led by Lord Wilson. Mr Patten's Exco has been different from its predecessors, perhaps because of the Governor's preference for an elected legislature - and for a more muscularly personal style of executive leadership.

Mr Patten has taken a strong lead in public and, as far as it is possible to tell, inside the council as well. Nevertheless, the Senior Executive Councillor's decision to resign and emigrate at such a sensitive time raises serious questions.

A key function of the old Exco - that of selling decisions to the Legislative Council - has ceased since Mr Patten severed the institutional link between the two councils. Members of Exco are unelected and unrepresentative. But they retain their role as advisers to the Governor. And despite Mr Patten's presidential style, they are still involved in decision-making when they serve with him as 'the Governor in Council' and bear collective responsibility for those decisions. The timing of Lady Dunn's announcement gives the perhaps misleading appearance that she disagrees with his policy over the Court of Final Appeal (CFA). Yet if she was a party to Exco's endorsement of CFA deal, she should be speaking up for it.

Commitment to the hardest decisions should be a key part of a councillor's role. Lady Dunn's personal concerns are understandable. It would have been better, however, had she chosen to stay, rather than giving the impression that she no longer believes in the territory's future.