States education

Robert Philpot is wrong to write ("Why Bill Clinton is a hero", 19 July) that "the Labour Party showed a surprising reluctance to learn more about" Clinton's victory in 1992. A group of us organised a major conference at the QE2 centre in January 1993, where Clinton's lieutenants and strategists explained how they had won.

I suggested holding the event to Bill Morris when I found myself behind him in a queue for coffee at Labour's European conference in November 1992. Clinton's programme and ambitions had strong social democratic resonances (healthcare, improved workplace rights, gay tolerance and so on) and, after the demoralisation of the May 1992 defeat for Labour, the global excitement generated by Clinton becoming president suggested that learning from his victory seemed a good idea.

Morris put up TGWU money for a conference that brought together the American and British centre left and, I believe, gave all of us some hope that permanent rule by the right was not a given.

One of the less pleasing arrogances of the European left is the view that there is nothing to learn from progressive American politics. This is as fatuous as the line that the only good ideas come from the US while European economic and social practice and policy merit scorn and disdain.

Denis MacShane MP
House of Commons
London SW1

This article first appeared in the 02 August 1999 issue of the New Statesman, America says: never again!