Honey And Vinegar

If Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying makes the same kind of mistakes as his predecessor, then his administration too will quickly get bogged down in a morass of recriminations and ineffectiveness.

But if he learns from Donald Tsang’s mistakes – and quickly corrects the missteps that have got his own term off to such a troubled start – then there is every prospect of a successful first period in office, and a return to power in 2017 by direct election.

Mr Leung has an activist agenda that he wants to implement over the next five years so his top priority must be to achieve a constructive working relationship with the Legislative Council.

He needs to think about how and why his predecessor’s administration began with such promise, but deteriorated so sharply.

The problems of the Tsang Administration began when the democratic camp made the mistake of vetoing the political reform package of 2005. The then Chief Executive’s mistaken response to that error triggered the slide which followed.

Donald could never bring himself to forgive the democratic camp for his legislative defeat and the loss of face which followed. From that point on, Mr Tsang made it clear that he regarded the pan democrats as the enemy. He would in future seek to work only with those perceived to be "friends".

Later in his term when he needed democratic support for his policies, it was either withheld or only grudgingly and incompletely given. In the meantime, the attacks on him and his team were relentless.

A similar situation is arising now with the foolish lawsuit challenging Mr Leung’s election by Judicial Review, or alternatively an out of time election petition.

It is not for me to comment on the legal merits of the twin cases, as they are now before the courts.

But from a political perspective the whole exercise is a disaster. Everyone can see that this is political point scoring of the most childish kind.

In the real world, there is no prospect whatsoever of Beijing rescinding Mr Leung’s appointment.

The only result will be to drag down our own leader – the person who represents us in the eyes of the world -- and damage his reputation.

And it will certainly not enhance Hong Kong’s reputation in the capital either.

It is at this point that there is both danger and opportunity.

If Mr Leung succumbs to the all too human instinctive reaction and sidelines the democrats in future to punish them for their behaviour, then he foregoes the chance to be a leader for the whole community and run an inclusive administration as he has often promised.

If instead Mr Leung takes the high road, shows he is the bigger man by ignoring the insults and treating with the democrats again as soon as the dust from the lawsuit has settled, then the tide of public opinion will start to flow in his direction.

And when he needs democratic support for his policies – and much of his agenda on social issues is not wildly different from that of their camp – it should be forthcoming.

The other episode that poisoned public opinion during Mr Tsang’s administration was the sudden introduction of deputy ministers and political assistants. Up to that point there had been precious little evidence that anyone was being held accountable for anything, so quite why two extra layers of non-accountability were required was not immediately apparent.

The limited consultation on the proposals did not shed much light, other than to reveal the extraordinarily high salaries that were being suggested. When it turned out the "three-point" scale in fact consisted of only two points, because no-one got the minimum whatever the paucity of experience and qualifications, public anger was palpable.

The public felt cheated. They had been.

The lessons for Mr Leung are pretty simple. Ignore insults, keep your eye on the main objective, work with whoever you need to to achieve the desired result. Always tell the truth and don’t try to slip controversial proposals through on the sly.

And keep smiling. Remember what my old granny always used to say to me : you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.