In February, Chris Patten announced that he will retire as Chancellor of Oxford University. So the Chancellor’s event last night was an interview with him.

I was moved for many reasons by last night’s interview. He was asked to give advice to young people. I’m summarising it as .

The Three C’s

Be Curious

Be Courteous

Have Courage

He added, ‘Don’t do something just for the money.’ Chris Patten has lived by those values. I’m not a Conservative but remembering the likes of him and Rab Butler, who was Chris Patten’s inspiration, and John Major and Michael Heseltine, who gave tribute to him, I long to return to their example of good manners in political life. Rab Butler’s advice to Chris Patten was to place more value on ‘generosity than efficiency’.

Chris Patten showed generosity towards me, a freelance writer, by allowing me to cast him away on Oxtopia for The Oxford Times . He squeezed 30 minutes for me into a hectic schedule. I wrote up his early life to the point where he lost his seat in Bath and asked him to approve that, so in our 30 minutes we could concentrate on China and Oxford.

He said the years in Hong Kong were the best five years of his life. Last night he described how the city he loves is in handcuffs. I share his interest in China. When I interviewed him , I was writing Brushstrokes in Time . In 2014, China had been changing for the better but just as civility and rationality in British politics has gone down the pan , a dark cloud of oppression looms over China. Brushstrokes in Time was based on real events inspired by the life of the Stars Artist Qu Leilei who I interviewed every month for three years. My novel ended with hope. In these dark times, the chancellor has a refreshing quality – a sense of humour.

This quote is from my memoir Food of Love Cooking up a Life across Gender, Class and Race.

‘When I interviewed Chris Patten, the Chancellor of Oxford University, I asked him, ‘What would he, when a student at Oxford, have said if told he’d one day become the Chancellor?’ He shrugged and said that he would’ve suggested the speaker was high on marijuana!

If middle-class Lord Patten of Barnes’s future was so unexpected, how much more so was mine? Women were second-class citizens and working-class women were at the bottom of the pile.

Here is his castaway feature : Chris patten

What does the world hold in store for us in 2025? Three quarters of the world’s population is now led by leaders who think of themselves as demi-gods. Who would have predicted that even the Netherlands would have joined that club? Global warming is the most important issue facing humanity but the likes of Putin, Trump and Netanyahu care not a jot about that issue. So the question is


Chris Patten says he will continue to write. I would love him to write on that issue because he has a grounding in history, unique in depth life experiences and the wisdom , generosity and open mindedness to make a fine job of it. He also has access to the world’s best brains.