I don't envy you this task. On the one hand we have our party leader, Ed Miliband seeking to position himself against powerful vested interests, and on the other an anti-union agenda being run by …..powerful vested interests. It would be easy to be distracted by the context in which your assignment was set.
As you know I prefer to think positively. So this report you are preparing is an opportunity. To build a one nation Labour Party must surely involve membership. At the heart of this challenge are questions about the role of political parties and their members in modern society.
One thing that is a given is “The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party” - the first sentence in the revised Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution. To the best of my knowledge you will not be recommending any change there.
So let's start with political parties themselves. What are they for? For me, they are unique, the only institutions in a democratic state able to form a government, decide the policies that reflect the values of those being represented, and empower their elected representatives to make the law to enact those policies.
So any credible recommendations to build a one nation Labour Party must surely have a paying mass membership at their heart. Anything less suggests the right of a (necessarily) small number of career politicians to decide what is best for the rest of us.
Benjamin Franklin said: "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Personally, I have never had any reason to doubt the certainty of death. But taxes? Their certainty begs questions about rights to impose and, if legitimately, how? Bearing in mind, today is Christmas Eve, one of the New Testament gospel authors, Luke, tells us: “...there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”
So Ed decreed that a one nation Labour Party should be rooted deeper in the lives of working people and their communities – but to what ends? To reinforce prejudice and inequality? Of course not. And paid for out of general taxation? Ah, state-funding, so tempting.
Like too many leading figures in public life, Ed is a career politician. In building a one nation Labour Party, he has to face these problems head on. Career politicians are not the creatures of conjurers. Political party membership is the starting point for power-crazed careers as well as keeping them in check, as the Labour Party knows very well from recent experience.
So I'm looking forward to you promoting mass membership as the centre-piece of your final report. That leads rapidly on to affordability – the current full rate is too high. And making membership compelling – very difficult if the first thing membership involves is freezing you out of selections.
With best wishes