NEW reminders this week that Hong Kong's smiling governor has not always expressed himself in the diplomatic circumlocutions he practises today. Simon Jenkins, former editor of The Times, illustrated how British governments could become committed to disastrous policies, quoting a new study of the poll tax, the unpopular measure that ultimately brought down Margaret Thatcher as prime minister. The Governor was, at the time, among ministers leading the attempt to reduce the tax's impact on voters, and to make it a little less unpalatable. 'Patten is recorded as swearing at the Treasury . . . for not giving him another GBP2 billion [about HK$24.3 billion] to reduce the tax,' Jenkins writes. It is fortunate agreement was finally reached on financing for the new airport. Otherwise, the airwaves might have been blue with similar Pattenisms. MEANWHILE those masters of intemperate language in Beijing might reflect that the best way to settle the dispute over reporting to the United Nations on Hong Kong's human rights could be to join the committee questioning the Government on its record. Among the 18 members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva are delegates from Peru, Togo, Egypt, Romania, Tunisia, Mongolia, Ecuador and Mexico - not the first nations one calls to mind when thinking about the protection of human rights. All are government nominees, albeit approved by the UN. There should have been a member from Rwanda present too, but he was last heard of sheltering in a refugee camp in Zaire. Perhaps that was why the Australian chairman, lawyer Philip Alston, commented so wryly when he opened the afternoon session questioning Solicitor-General Daniel Fung and British officials on Wednesday. 'We shall resume immediately our torture of the British delegation,' he said. NEWLY-WED Democrat Lee Wing-tat has been undergoing a different kind of torture, apparently. He was complaining in the Legislative Council transport panel that MTR trains are so packed, especially during peak hours, that men and women are forced to be intimate with each other. But before Secretary for Transport Haider Barma could respond with statistics on rush-hour frotteurism, the Liberal Party's Miriam Lau Kin-yee butted in. 'You should take the MTR with your wife,' she suggested. NELLIE Fong's efforts to ingratiate herself with the mainland leadership of the Preliminary Working Committee haven't always been subtle - witness her attempts to brief Hong Kong reporters in bad Mandarin and her concern to get them to fill idle moments by taking courses in Pinyin. But she's been a whole lot cleverer when it comes to scoring political points over her rival for media attention, the smooth and gleaming co-convenor of the political subgroup, Leung Chun-ying. After Mr Leung's clash with the Hong Kong media over his decision to stop giving official briefings (forcing reporters to glean deniable stories from individual sub-group members), Ms Fong went swinging into action at a PWC karaoke party. Eyes alight with that glint of malice which has been her trademark ever since her days clashing with her brother-in-law Martin Lee in Legco, Ms Fong requested a rendition of the Cantonese song Cham Mak Si Gam. This, roughly translated into English, means 'silence is golden'. The obliging Tam Yiu-chung was enthusiastically crooning this masterpiece into the microphone when he suddenly interrupted himself, as if the penny had just dropped. 'Maybe we should all shut up,' he said. AN interesting choice of music, too, from Andrew Wong, who has been wandering around Legco of late listening to the medieval Gregorian chants of the Latin Mass on his personal stereo. Was this a political statement, we asked, thinking of the regular churchgoing habits of the Governor and Democratic Party leader Martin Lee. Not at all, replied Mr Wong. He was a Catholic and he liked the music. Hadn't we seen him counting his rosary in Legco meetings? Well, no, actually. The only thing anyone is ever seen counting in Legco is sheep. GOVERNMENT watchdoggie Brian Jenney has been surprisingly diplomatic on the subject of our 'offshore' Governor's frequent trips overseas. Asked for his reaction to legislators' criticism of the Governor's travel expenditure, the Auditor General said it was difficult to put a value on overseas visits. And, no, he had not considered launching an enquiry into the cost of Mr Patten's jaunts. But he did tell one reporter that from his own experience overseas trips were not much fun. By coincidence, we suppose, he was just back from an official visit to India. When the Post called him on Sunday, Mr Jenney was having his afternoon nap, apparently recovering from his exhausting trip. FINALLY some unexpected news from the United States, where USAir, working to reassure its customers after five fatal accidents in five years, announced a two-point programme on Monday to monitor its safety measures. The airline said it will bring in PRC Aviation to audit its safety practices and policies. It said PRC will be allowed to 'go anywhere, ask any questions, and look at any record, manuals, bulletins or messages they think are germane to safety at USAir'. Before any worried Asian passengers reach for their parachutes - and military analysts begin to question whether the Americans have given up on security altogether in their frantic search for new commercial relationships with the Far East, perhaps we should point out that PRC is a Tucson-based aviation consulting firm.