ONE year ago it was so fashionable in Britain to be seen to support Governor Chris Patten, that it was difficult to find anyone opposed to his policies in London. But fashions change. Now, in certain political circles, there are those bemoaning how the Governor has perhaps permanently damaged Britain's relations with an emerging superpower. Mr Patten still retains - and this is a crucial point in his favour - the support of almost all the policy-makers in London. But, at the fringes of power, backing for the Governor is beginning to slip. Certainly the consensus that once existed for Mr Patten's policies is a thing of the past. No wonder then that Chinese Ambassador to Britain Ma Yuzhen was quick to crow last week about how there were members of both Houses of Parliament who had reservations about what the Governor was doing, and some who were opposed to his actions. Mr Ma should know: he now spends much of his time lunching and lobbying parliamentarians, in an effort to undermine support for Mr Patten. Even the Governor no longer claims to have complete support in London. ''Some criticisms have been raised,'' he admitted recently, although he stressed: ''Opinion in Britain - in Parliament and outside it - has remained largely supportive.'' It is hardly a surprising admission, given that it is not just former foreign policy adviser Sir Percy Cradock who has come out in opposition to Mr Patten's policies. Two of Britain's past three prime ministers are broadly in the same camp. ''If you are negotiating from a weak hand, and your opponent knows that this is so, it is better not to trumpet your strength,'' Lord Callaghan, Britain's last Labour prime minister, told the Sunday Morning Post. ''Such a situation demands finesse if you are to secure the best settlement, and I do not think the British Government is displaying this.'' Another former premier, Sir Edward Heath, last week told a Conservative Party function Britain had only itself to blame for the present hostilities with Beijing and, without naming Mr Patten, criticised him for causing unnecessary damage to Sino-British relations. The opposition of these two men - who have both been wined and dined, with evident success, in Beijing - may be more than offset by the fact that Lady Thatcher, the only former premier who still has any clout in modern British politics, strongly supportsthe Governor, as, of course, does Prime Minister John Major. But Lady Thatcher's two predecessors are far from alone in their criticisms. When the House of Lords recently debated Hong Kong, barely a voice was raised in Mr Patten's favour, and the Government is sure to face a rough ride from peers in the debate that will inevitably follow the expected tabling of another political reform bill in March. There may also be some criticism in the lower chamber. Members of Parliament (MPs) who have so far spoken out publicly, tend to do so in support of the Governor. However, behind the scenes there is plenty of grumbling about the fallout from Mr Patten's policies. But these complaints, from a few backbench MPs, should not be taken too seriously - for now. For once again, those who have any impact on policy-making, the leaders of the opposition Labour Party, still back Mr Patten. However their support is beginning to fray, perhaps as a result of frequent lunches with Mr Ma. ''Somehow the British Government has gone on with all of this and dealt with it in such a way as to result in this complete fracture of relations between Britain and China. So they have really messed it up somehow,'' said shadow foreign secretary Jack Cunningham, who is, nonetheless, generally supportive of Mr Patten. In the media, too, there is no longer consensus. ''Phonies don't come more cynically brazen than Chris Patten,'' thundered one recent editorial in The Sun, Britain's biggest-selling paper. ''His posturing antics as Governor are a disgrace. With all his hypocritical preaching about democracy he's come close to wrecking Britain's relations with China.'' Meanwhile, the more influential papers, such as The Times, remain firmly on the Governor's side, with several powerful editorials in his favour. Yet the moral in all this for Mr Patten is that he can no longer expect the sort of uncritical support he used to enjoy in Britain. And as the battle over political reform reaches its most crucial stage in the coming months, Mr Patten should be prepared to face a few brickbats, not just from Beijing, but also from his home side.