EVEN before Governor Chris Patten's plane touched down at London's Heathrow Airport last week, the British public was ready for his arrival. Spectator editor Dominic Lawson had been despatched to write a friendly profile explaining the dilemmas of a crusader for democracy. And London Sunday Times political columnist Michael Jones had been treated to a trip aboard the Lady Maurine before he, too, filed a column on the subject. There were radio and television appearances before the ritualistic photo call with Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and his team. This week, Hongkong will see another publicity blitz - celebrating Mr Patten's one-year tenure at Upper Albert Road. There will be the usual round of interviews in which he will explain his achievements and spell out the road ahead. Indeed, the public spotlight has been the hallmark of Mr Patten's first year in power. Although the Government House lawn press conferences have become less frequent and the public question-and-answer sessions a thing of the past, never before has a Hongkong governor used the media to such good effect. It has kept Mr Patten high in the opinion polls despite China's most blistering salvoes - a Sunday Morning Post poll describes him as ''open'' (75 per cent) and close to the territory's people (84 per cent). But using the media is, of course, a politician's stock in trade. And Mr Patten, Hongkong's first political Governor, has certainly exceeded his billing in this respect. Yet, apart from the glad-handing appearances and a centre-piece dispute with Beijing over constitutional reform, what else has the Patten administration achieved? And, despite the fact he is more accessible than almost any governor before him, is he really, in that telling phrase which began his tenure last year, ''open and accessible''? Legislative Councillors complain they know less about the workings of the Executive Council than they did under former governor Lord Wilson (who, coincidently, gets a higher rating than Mr Patten for doing most good for Hongkong in the poll). And the talks over the new airport and constitutional reform are marked for their snail's pace progress and the cloak of secrecy that envelops it. Critics, even those highly regarded at Government House, claim Mr Patten has lost interest in all but political reform. ''He's turned into a one-issue Governor,'' said independent Emily Lau Wai-hing, once seen as Mr Patten's favourite legislator. ''Whenever I try to talk to him about anything else he simply loses interest.'' The poll results bear out her impression. Only 53 per cent believe he is living up to his promises on democratic development, half think he is doing the same over the environment, and a dismal 35 per cent think he has lived up to his health and welfare pledge. The Governor himself would deny his primary interest is with the dispute over democratic reform. And indeed, last October's policy address, his self-proclaimed Agenda for Hongkong, was overwhelmingly devoted to other issues, with political reform proposals left till the final paragraphs to try to avoid overshadowing other issues. Yet that is what happened in the following nine months as confrontation and then negotiations with Beijing wiped almost everything else off the administration's agenda. The Governor's team claim this is unfair; that the media only pays attention when he bashes Beijing, while calls to clean up the harbour pass almost unnoticed. Yet, while political groups wanting to discuss the 1995 polls are still welcomed with open arms at Government House, other delegations and their issues have been given short shrift. The overwhelming concentration on constitutional reform means little effort has been made to save some of Mr Patten's other proposals from biting the dust. First to go was the Government-Legislative Council liaison committee, scrapped within weeks of being proposed on October 7. As concern grew among councillors over the likely composition of the committee, the Government shelved the idea and told councillors they only had themselves to blame. With official attention distracted by the war of words with Beijing, the Government made almost no attempt to investigate alternatives, or lobby councillors on the issue. I NSTEAD the idea was swept under the carpet, until increasing concern about the lack of contact between the Executive and Legislative Councils forced it back on to the agenda last month. Even then the Governor's spokesman, Mike Hanson, insisted it was up to councillors to take the initiative. Another policy that also faded away was the new-found commitment to a competition policy - to break local cartels - that the Governor's Business Council was told to put top of the agenda when it was formed last October. The group promptly gave the Consumer Council $800,000 to write a report on the issue - the standard trick for putting an unwelcome idea on hold - and has managed to avoid doing anything more. With Mr Patten under attack from the business community over the uncertainty caused by the political reform row he was unwilling to open up a second front against it by taking up the cudgels on competition - and so another bold initiative died. The battle with Beijing caused other casualties. Although now approved, the scheme to build cheap homes for sandwich class families was deadlocked for months by the Sino-British Land Commission's failure to meet due to the political reform row. Mr Patten's enthusiasm for pumping billions into the sewage disposal strategy, through government funding of the first stage of building a new network to collect the waste, has been rendered a potential white elephant by the failure to agree with Beijingon the all-important second stage construction of a tunnel needed to dispose of the waste that will only be built after 1997. Where the Governor's initiatives have gone ahead critics claim he has been too busy fighting on the democracy front to pay much attention to seeing them through to fruition. ''He has spent too much time on political issues and therefore pays less attention to the needs of the citizen,'' leftist legislator Tam Yiu-chung said. On education, Mr Patten said nothing when his pledge to cut class sizes and recruit 780 teachers led to a public outcry, as teacher training colleges slashed admission standards in a desperate attempt to find enough bodies. ''Mr Patten has invested a lot of money in education, but that is not enough . . . he does not think about the consequences of employing more teachers and decreasing class sizes,'' claimed United Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, who represents teachers in the Legislative Council. On housing, Secretary for Planning Environment and Lands Tony Eason was left to face the flak over the sandwich class housing scheme. It offers loans for home purchase but has been criticised by some for doing nothing to address the long-term problem of a lack of land. This was in marked contrast to last summer, when the Governor made high-profile interventions - and headline news - on housing, by announcing 60 per cent of Hongkong people would own homes by 2001. Beijing's allies cynically suggest the reason for Mr Patten's present lack of attention to such social issues is that he was only interested in using them to rally support for his political reform crusade. ''I cannot say anything good about this person,'' said Liu Yiu-chu, an adviser to Beijing and local delegate to the National People's Congress. ''He has no heart for caring about the people of Hongkong. Everything he does is fake and a game of statistics.'' The Governor's defence of his inaction on people's livelihood issues, is that he needs to give more responsibility to the top civil servants who are expected to stay in Hongkong after 1997. ''It's important to delegate as much as possible,'' he told the Sunday Morning Post. ''There are a lot of high quality people and they should be given more elbow room to get on with the job.'' However, this is the same argument Lord Wilson tried to use as he unsuccessfully attempted to shrug off a lame-duck image during his final years as governor. And as the poll results show, the public is not impressed either. It could easily have been reversed, had Mr Patten put a little more effort into speaking out on social issues. But it is on accountability and democracy, the area Mr Patten has concentrated on - often to the expense of all else - that the record of the single-issue Governor's first year in office will ultimately stand or fall. While less enthusiastic today than in his first few months in office, Mr Patten has certainly opened up Government House to an unimaginable degree. And question-and-answer sessions with Legislative Councillors have become so routine, many no longer bother to turn up for the monthly event. However, the Governor has failed to make that new-found accountability extend to the administration. ''Our complaint for the last decade has been about the lack of transparency and accountability and I don't see that changing at all,'' said legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai, a Patten appointee. Mr Patten's tenure has seen the rise of ambitious like-minded proteges, such as Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Sze Cho-cheung and Secretary for the Treasury Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who do place some emphasis on openness and accountability. But nothing has been done to purge the old guard from the civil service, and they continue to get away with single-sentence responses to legislators' questions or, in the case of Secretary for the Civil Service Anson Chan Fang On-sang, defy convention by refusing to provide a written answer. While personally championing localisation, with the appointment of the first Chinese private secretary to serve at Government House, Mr Patten refused to intervene to support it elsewhere. Instead he allowed controversial appointments, such as ''Ambassador'' to Washington Barrie Wiggham, to go ahead. Today's Executive Council - whose members are still largely unknown after nine months in office - is widely seen as less open than its high-profile predecessor, whose members were purged by Mr Patten last October. The Executive Council's recent rejection of Legislative Council decisions on the double rent policy and British passport conversion scheme were widely seen as making a mockery of pledges of accountability to Legco. The Government argues this is a misconception, since it is the administration that is accountable to legislators, rather than its advisory inner cabinet. Nonetheless, recent events have added to a growing perception the Governor's decision to split membership of the councils was a miscalculation. Under that scenario it was but one part of a more general misjudgement over how to handle Beijing, in which Mr Patten erroneously concluded that by barring the United Democrats from the Executive Council and giving up the fight for more directly-elected seats, he could get away with his proposals. The Governor admits he was taken aback by the vehemence of the reaction from Beijing. He has also hinted his decision on Exco was partly a concession to China's well-known stance on the issue. What he will not publicly concede is that he has backtracked since then in the face of the salvoes being fired from China and perhaps also from some pressure from London to climb down. But the public believes he has. Today's poll found an overwhelming 67 per cent believe Mr Patten has changed his style and become more diplomatic over the past few months. The evidence is there. ''It is an old fashioned view of mine that important issues are best dealt with openly and directly,'' he told the Sunday Morning Post on October 9 last year. ''To argue none of this should be on the record until we've reached some decision doesn't seem to be a very sensible way of trying to promote political stability,'' the Governor added, defending his rejection of Beijing's demand the dialogue on politicalreform be conducted behind closed doors. Nowadays Mr Patten sings a different tune, repeatedly talking of the need for secrecy, in order to give the talks a ''fair wind''. Conventional wisdom increasingly holds the Governor has been forced to moderate his tone by unhappy Foreign Office mandarins and British businessmen, wary of risking their trade ties with China. But Mr Patten shows no sign of having been forced on the run. Arriving back in Hongkong yesterday, after the Downing Street summit on Hongkong, he looked more relaxed than he normally would after a transcontinental flight. A TTACKING United Democrats chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming for the second time in a week, Mr Patten appeared to be fully at ease with the decision he seemed to have made - to put rebuilding a relationship ahead of promoting democracy. Specific U-turns are hard to pin down with a professional politician. One newspaper claimed last week he had changed his stance on the through train, after the Governor admitted in London that he was not demanding all legislators be allowed to sit beyond1997. That angered Mr Patten, and with good reason. He has always taken pains to avoid any categorical commitment to a 100 per cent through train - although he did not disabuse those who believed that was his stance. But on one issue Mr Patten was more specific, using words that have come back to haunt him. ''We're going to have to put legislation to the Legislative Council early in the New Year,'' he said during the October 9 interview. Asked what he would do if the Chinese offered talks at the moment the bill was about to be presented, the Governor said he would not allow such a move to delay its introduction to Legco. While other U-turns may be debatable, this is one area where Mr Patten has unequivocally broken his word, enraging his liberal supporters. ''He started his year very well but then halfway through he lost his wind,'' said Mr Lee, while Ms Lau warned that if he climbed down ''he might just as well pack up and go home''. The jury may still be out, according to Ms Lau and others. But the danger of being a one-issue Governor is that if you give way then there is nothing else to do. And this is precisely the problem Mr Patten is perilously close to facing after a year in office.