MIKE Hanson, the Governor's spokesman, is unlikely to thank anyone for comparing him with Sir Bernard Ingham, who was Lady Thatcher's powerful - and unpopular - press secretary for all but a few months of the former prime minister's 11-year reign. Yet it is an analogy which must be made because of Mr Hanson's influential position within the Government information apparatus and the potentially dangerous precedent this sets for the future. Mr Hanson has always made it clear he will stay for as long as Mr Patten asks him to - even if this means until 1997. And it is rumoured the Governor has asked him to do precisely that, which not only implies Mr Patten is serious about staying until the handover, but also raises the real prospect of Mr Hanson assuming Ingham-like status. For, as with his British counterpart, he will be a powerful press secretary, serving alongside a powerful leader for an extended period of time. The irony is that it is Mr Hanson, who has always been more at ease working on policy than public relations, who should be in such a powerful PR position. For his influence is not confined to Government House. The Foreign Office and British embassy in Beijing are known to co-ordinate with him. In his other key position of Information Co-ordinator, Mr Hanson exercises influence throughout the Hong Kong administration. That is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. The reason Sir Bernard became so distrusted was that he was a civil servant playing a political role - even helping Lady Thatcher sack cabinet ministers - in a country where the constitutional system is not supposed to allow that. This is not a problem in Hong Kong, with its executive-led system of government, which means officials are expected - even encouraged - to take on political tasks. In any case the main reason why Mr Hanson has become so powerful is because the administration's information machinery was so hopelessly out of date before his arrival. The Government Information Services (GIS) had proved incapable of keeping up with the evolution of Hong Kong into a more political society, and its 500-odd staff performed purely routine tasks. Officials distrusted it because they were not sure GIS was on their side and journalists disliked it because they could not get the information they wanted. The publicity-conscious Chief Secretary, Sir David Ford, himself a former Director of Information Services, understood this only too well and - in typical Hong Kong fashion - responded to a problem by setting up a parallel structure, in the shape of the Information Co-ordinator's office. Although its first incumbent, Tony Miller, began the much-needed task of political PR, he was handicapped by the lack of interest from Lord Wilson, and operated on a purely ad-hoc basis, never directly challenging GIS chief Irene Yau Lee Che-yun's empire. Mr Hanson has - to some degree - changed that, aided by the arrival of a political Governor who cares intensely about presentation. With the Beijing battle looming, Mr Patten needed an efficient and effective PR machine to support him. The rudiments of this now exist - during last winter's war of words, salvoes fired from across the border often brought a response from Government House within hours. Mrs Yau's empire has been emasculated with several of her most senior staff transferred to serve Mr Hanson, a man they now describe as ''their boss''. Few deny things have improved as a result. Civil servants are more accessible and information is more widely available. When Civil Aviation Department officials recently tried to hide the safety implications of changing the landing system at Kai Tak, their press officers prevented this. Much remains to be done. The information apparatus has yet to learn to take the initiative. But the problem lies elsewhere. For the creation of a political PR machinery, under the control of one man based in Government House, sets a deeply worrying precedent for what might happen after the handover. Such centralised control may be beneficial at present. But it creates a powerful propaganda tool, ready and waiting for the post-1997 Beijing-appointed Chief Executive to appoint his henchman. Just as Mr Hanson co-ordinates activities with the Foreign Office, so his successor might use this as justification for liaising with the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing - or even the Communist Party secretariat. That is a serious danger which has so far been overlooked. Having a Sir Bernard-like figure in Hong Kong may not be so bad in the short-term, but allowing it to continue beyond 1997 could be disastrous.