Chris Patten said goodbye yesterday. A little early, perhaps. But with only 82 days to go, he had to start somewhere. Perhaps because the Conservative Government has even fewer days left in power than its man in Hong Kong, he began with an official farewell to that bastion of Torydom, the British Chamber of Commerce. Chamber chairman Patrick Paul introduced the Governor with the familiarity of a fellow politician. It was, joked the former chairman of Conservatives Abroad, an anniversary for Hong Kong. On the second Thursday in April five years ago, Mr Patten had won the general election and lost his own seat in Bath. There might have been times since then, remarked Mr Patten with British understatement, when some of those present had wished they had postal votes in Bath. (Laughter, as the audience understood. They would have voted Tory to keep him in Britain.) But Mr Paul recalled they had felt differently once. 'The mood among many in Hong Kong in 1990-91 was that a political rather than a diplomatic figure as governor was appropriate,' he said. 'There were lots of difficulties at that time. It is a special kind of hindsight, with severe astigmatism - perhaps even detached retinas - which sees a pre-Patten golden age of Sino-British relations.' Compared with such home truths, the Governor's speech was undramatic. If he had said 'Hello' to Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Lu Ping with the same uncontroversial fare he chose to say farewell to British business, he might have become a frequent and welcome visitor in Beijing. There was the occasional hint of the political: an aside about accusations of bad-mouthing Hong Kong; or a reminder that derailing the through-train had been unnecessary. There was even a risky joke: 'There really is no such thing as a free lunch - and I'm looking forward to the time when there's no such thing as a free speech.' But the rest was the standard sales talk about the dynamism of Hong Kong and the great future ahead if it maintained its autonomy, freedom from corruption and rule of law. The response to Tung Chee-hwa's civil liberties proposals showed Mr Patten did not mean to end with a whimper. But to British businessmen, he was, once again, the Tory politician. One of them, not one to rock the boat.