Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Labour must face this fact – it may be better in coalition (Guardian)

Spitting expletives at the Lib Dems has to stop, writes Polly Toynbee. If they'd governed together we'd have had no Iraq or civil liberties abuses.

2. When the Queen gave me a story, I didn't blab (Independent)

If you go around printing people's informal remarks, pretty soon you'll find your social circle confined to the newsroom, writes Andreas Whittam Smith.

3. US must not hide from the Middle East (Financial Times)

The American president would benefit by setting out a decisive regional strategy, says Philip Stephens.

4. Labour needs real cuts as well as real ideas (Times) (£)

What happens to the benefits bill under a Miliband government, asks Philip Collins. Voters need details as well as philosophy.

5. The Hugo Chávez cult is over (Guardian)

Oil can no longer blind Venezuelans to their leader's failure, says Francisco Toro. The flaws in Chávez's 21st-century socialism are all too clear.

6. Won’t Osborne learn the lesson? Wealth taxes don’t work (Daily Telegraph)

When even Tories talk about squeezing the rich, it’s clear Britain is heading for trouble, argues Fraser Nelson.

7. South Africa drifts under Jacob Zuma (Financial Times)

A country that should be leading finds itself at a dangerous impasse, says an FT editorial.

8. To govern alone, Tories must reach out to all voters, not pander to their own (Guardian)

David Cameron needs to show a determination to make life better for people whether they voted Conservative or not, says Michael Ashcroft.

9. Chicago’s got the second city blues (Daily Mail)

Chicago isn’t inhabited by savages, writes Martin Samuel. For some reason, though, its government is happy to let you think that way.

10. America’s best weapons are law and justice (Daily Telegraph)

Open and fair trials are playing an important role in fighting the al-Qaeda terror threat, writes Mark Martins.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.