Legislative Council's end of term report for 1992/93 will be a far more complicated document than in any previous year. Not even the surge of energy and political polarisation that Hongkong's once compliant legislature experienced after the 1991 direct elections can compare with the sea-change of the last 12 months. Over the past year, Legco has had to redefine itself both in its relationship with a new Governor and in terms of its own role in the government of the territory. Legco members, including those who were then still members of the Executive Council, were taken by surprise when Chris Patten made his maiden policy address. Few foresaw the radicalism of his approach, which seemed at the time both to broaden the franchise to the mass of Hongkong people and to offer real power to Legco to decide on the territory's future. In the meantime, however, it has become all too obvious that Mr Patten's empowerment of Legco was not what it seemed. He arrived in the territory last July promising executive-led Government and that is what he has provided. Legco's voice has been listened to when it has suited the Government to do so. When Legco has been at odds with the administration, Mr Patten and his civil servants have at times bullied it, at times ignored its opinions, and at times circumvented it entirely. In part it was force of circumstance. Mr Patten could not at once try to accommodate Chinese demands for secret negotiation and continue to treat Legco with the same respect he offered it last Autumn. When dialogue with China seemed impossible, Mr Pattencould say it was up to Legco to decide which of his reform proposals would be adopted and how they should be modified. Nowadays, however, the position has changed. In theory Legco will still have the right to amend and decide the fate of whatever is agreed in Sino-British talks. In practice, Mr Patten maintains he could not agree to a reform deal that would be unacceptableto Legco. In other words it will be the conservative majority he previously ridiculed whom he will have to rely on to push the deal through. That situation could be reversed quickly should the Sino-British talks break down and Mr Patten decide to table his original proposals. In the meantime, however, those who were once his natural allies, such as the United Democrats who at times began to look like the Government party, now seem to have been eclipsed. By contrast, appointed conservatives like Allen Lee Peng-fei have gained a political relevance which belies their lack of representativeness. In part, however, it was the nature of the constitutional framework itself that dictated the Governor's fast cooling relationship with Legco. Mr Patten has no permanent government party to back him or force him to trim his sails if he moves too far off course ideologically. Moreover he is dealing with an unrepresentative legislature, a hotchpotch of special interests with only a minority of directly elected members who could truly be said to represent popular opinion. Legco factions seem, at times, to behave like real political parties with ideological or pragmatic divisions dictated by those sections of society they most closely identify with. At other times, they appear to define themselves by choosing a position thatis different from their opponents. That is not to say Legco cannot be effective. Its outrage over the manner in which British Dependent Territories Citizen passports were to be phased out in contravention of the Joint Declaration, forced the British Government to change its mind. Unusual though the resulting arrangement of allowing Hongkong people to carry two passports simultaneously may be, it is nevertheless a victory for Legco over the Executive. It has also used its power in Finance Committee to curb the Government's spending on the Provisional Airport Authority and helps to keep the Government honest and accountable by scrutinising policy and questioning officials. But Legco remains neither fish nor fowl, a flawed institution which Britain and China have conspired over the years to maintain in a state of permanent immaturity. It has power to influence government and to block legislation. But it has no executive responsibility to keep it from behaving irrationally. Mr Patten's original proposals would at least have made it more representative of public opinion. But with all connections and communications between it and the Executive virtually severed, it is an unguided missile that Government could all too easily find turned upon itself.