Former governor Chris Patten said yesterday the finance chief had an uphill battle to win public support for his proposed goods and services tax. A day after his spat with Henry Tang Ying-yen about fiscal policy before the handover, Lord Patten said: 'If [Mr Tang] could convince people in the next few months that there is a case for a sales tax, good luck to him. My impression is that it may be an uphill struggle.' On Saturday, Mr Tang said Lord Patten 'patted his butt and left' in 1997, leaving the city ill-prepared for the Asian financial crisis that followed. Lord Patten responded by pointing out that Hong Kong's finances during his governorship were largely managed by Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who is now Mr Tang's boss. 'I don't want to have an argument with him [Henry Tang]. I barely know him. I'm far too old to get into this sort of face-slapping politics,' Mr Patten told Cable TV. Lord Patten praised Mr Tsang for his courage in fending off currency speculators during the Asian financial crisis, saying he would not have been bold enough to take such action during his rule. These remarks were made during interviews with local television stations. Lord Patten conceded that Britain should have implemented reforms for greater democracy in Hong Kong much earlier. He said even the reform package he introduced in the final years of colonial rule could not meet people's democratic aspirations today. Asked if he agreed that the chief executive's ill-fated electoral package represented a step forward, he replied: 'Maybe Donald was thinking of the hymn by Cardinal [John Henry] Newman, Lead, Kindly Light, and one line reads 'I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me'.' Meanwhile, Lord Patten turned on the charm for young people, commuters and fans gathering for his book signing. At Mei Foo KCRC West Rail concourse with the company's chief executive James Blake, Lord Patten shared his love of books with secondary school children from the area as hundreds of people queued to receive their copies of his book Not Quite the Diplomat signed by the author. Lord Patten joked about US President George W. Bush's G8 gaffes, saying that 'the little mic' attached to his own lapel made him nervous, especially with Mr Bush getting into trouble recently for forgetting to turn it off. He said Hong Kong was still as it was before 1997 - free, safe and 'one of my favourite cities'.