IT is difficult to understand what the “Third Way” gathering of prominent centre-left politicians, recently concluded in London, really achieved. Described as a “progressive governance conference” it attracted an impressive attendance, starting with former US President Bill Clinton and including President Mbeki of South Africa and Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, the recently elected President of Brazil. But the very different interests of Europe's rich nations and those of the impoverished Third World often seem to stand in the way of a common Third Way approach in practice, however much agreement their may be about it in theory. When he addressed the conference Mr Blair used it to re-affirm his commitment to the reform and improvement of public services; in parts his speech sounded like a first draft of Labour's manifesto for the next election. Of much greater interest was the debut in an international forum of Brazil's President, a former trade unionist, who has the task of enabling his country, potentially the richest in Latin America, to realise its full potential. While acknowledging the reforms for which he must be responsible, he did hesitate to point to inequalities which make his job so difficult: “To give each citizen on Earth the quality of life in Sweden or England or Germany you would have to make the Earth three times bigger than today”, he told the delegates. At the close of the conference Peter Mandelson, who had chaired it throughout, said that there was no need for a Fourth Way - the Third Way had been and still was “a winning brand”.