Morning call: the pick of the papers

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

1. David Cameron's well-oiled winning machine is now a car crash (Guardian)

From the NHS to schools, a catalogue of errors and incompetence is undermining confidence in a once-pitch-perfect Tory party, says Polly Toynbee.

2. Mea culpa that reaches right to the very top (Independent)

News International's admission that it was responsible for the hacking of the phones of public figures ranging from a former member of the cabinet to a Hollywood actress represents a seismic moment for the management of Britain's biggest newspaper publisher, says Ian Burrell.

3. What Hugh Grant revealed about the paparazzi and power (Independent)

You wouldn't necessarily expect the most interesting journalism of the week to come from a film star and his ex-girlfriend, writes Christina Patterson – referring to this New Statesman piece.

4. A misbegotten idea that will prolong the reign of the old boys and elites (Independent)

Nick Clegg sometimes just listens to music and cries, he told Jemima Khan in an NS interview this week. We all know the feeling when we hear about his throughts on social mobility, says Michael Bywater.

5. Ditch the spin-cation. We like flash hols too (Times) (£)

Cameron shouldn't feel obliged to fly Ryanair and stay in cheap hotels, says Janice Turner.

6. I just can't see Berlusconi flying Ryanair (Telegraph)

Compared with the comic turns in other countries, our leaders seem such a dull lot, says Matthew Norman.

7. It's not our job to save the euro (Telegraph)

The failure of the euro will signify the ultimate failure of the European ideal, says Simon Heffer.

8. Our revolution's doing what Saleh can't – uniting Yemen (Guardian)

Yemen's struggle to overthrow the president has brought stability and peace to a country riven by conflict, says Tawakkol Karman. This is truly historic.

9. Can we really judge the past by the present? (Times) (£)

Matthew Parris on the brutality of empire – and the cover-ups which show that colonial officials knew their actions were wrong.

10. One year on: the sun is shining, my life is starting again (Times) (£)

The Times columnist Melanie Reid broke her neck 12 months ago. Now she's back home.

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Boris Johnson isn't risking his political life over Heathrow

The anti-Heathrow campaigner was never a committed environmentalist. 

A government announcement on expanding London’s airports is expected today, and while opposition forces have been rallying against the expected outcome - a third runway at Heathrow - the decision could also be a divisive one for the ruling Conservative party. A long consultation period will allow these divisions to fester. 

Reports suggest that up to 60 Conservative MPs are against expansion at the Heathrow site. The Prime Minister’s own constituents are threatening legal action, and the former London mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, has promised to step down as MP for Richmond rather than let the airport develop.

But what of Boris Johnson? The politician long synonymous with Heathrow opposition - including a threat to lie down “in front of those bulldozers” - is expected to call the decision a mistake. But for a man unafraid to dangle from a zipwire, he has become unusually reticent on the subject.

The reticence has partly been imposed upon him. In a letter to her cabinet ministers, Theresa May has granted them freedom from the usual rules of collective responsibility (under which cabinet ministers are required to support government positions). But she has also requested that they refrain from speaking out in the Commons, from “actively” campaigning against her position, and from calling “into question the decision making process itself”.  

Johnson is not about to start cheering for Heathrow. But unlike Goldsmith, he is no committed environmentalist - and he's certainly a committed politician.  

Boris’s objections to the expansion at Heathrow have all too often only extended as far as the lives of his London constituents. These local impacts are not to be belittled – in his role of mayor of London, he rightly pointed to the extreme health risks of increased noise and air pollution. And his charisma and profile have also boosted community campaigns around these issues. 

But when it comes to reducing emissions, Johnson is complacent. He may have come a long way since a 2013 Telegraph article in which he questioned whether global warming was real. Yet his plan to build an alternative “hub” airport in the Thames Estuary would have left the question of cutting UK aviation emissions worryingly un-resolved. This lack of curiosity is alarming considering his current job as foreign secretary. 

And there are reasons to be concerned. According to Cait Hewitt at the Aviation Environment Federation, the UK fails to meet its targets for CO2 reduction. And the recent UN deal on aviation emission mitigation doesn’t even meet the commitments of the UK’s own Climate Change Act, let alone the more stringent demands of the Paris Agreement. “Deciding that we’re going to do something that we know is going to make a problem worse, before we’ve got an answer, is the wrong move”, said Hewitt.

There is a local environmental argument too. Donnachadh McCarthy, a spokesperson from the activist group “Rising Up”, says the pollution could affect Londoners' health: "With 70 per cent of flights taken just by 15 per cent of the UK's population... this is just not acceptable in a civilised democracy.”

The way Johnson tells it, his reason for staying in government is a pragmatic one. “I think I'd be better off staying in parliament to fight the case, frankly," he told LBC Radio in 2015. And he's right that, whatever the government’s position, the new “national policy statement” to authorise the project will likely face a year-long public consultation before a parliamentary vote in late 2017 or early 2018. Even then the application will still face a lengthy planning policy stage and possible judicial review. 

But if the foreign secretary does fight this quietly, in the back rooms of power, it is not just a loss to his constituents. It means the wider inconsistencies of his position can be brushed aside - rather than exposed and explored, and safely brought down to ground. 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.