Morning Call: our pick of the papers

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

1. His calamity cabinet must be the despair of David Cameron (Observer)

An astonishing number of ministers are either deliberately stirring up trouble or stumbling into the mire, says Andrew Rawnsley.

2. Last gasp of the seigneurs (Sunday Times) (£)

Both Ken Clarke and Dominique Strauss-Kahn owe their predicaments largely to the same thing – an indifference to women's feelings, says Minette Marrin.

3. Ed Miliband and the End of the World (Independent on Sunday)

Labour's leader should be thinking about policy and not about Clarke's resignation – or anything else unlikely to happen, argues John Rentoul.

4. Kenneth Clarke has done his time. He should go without delay (Sunday Telegraph)

Until the Justice Secretary is sacked, Cameron's claim to be on the side of the public over crime will fail to ring true, says Matthew d'Ancona.

5. Speak up on crime, PM, or be punished (Sunday Times) (£)

Law and order is usually the Conservatives' strongest card, yet many voters think the Prime Minister has thrown it away, says Martin Ivens.

6. Obama's visit marks a new special relationship of the super-realists (Observer)

With a shared pragmatism about foreign policy, the president and David Cameron may have a good deal in common, says Jacob Weisberg.

7. The right seems reluctant to run against Obama (Independent on Sunday)

Six months ago, the Republicans triumphed in the midterm elections, but few have come forward for 2012, writes Rupert Cornwell.

8. Why drown Ken Clarke in this tidal wave of phony anger? (Observer)

The reaction to the Justice Secretary's remarks about rape proves that true political discurse is a thing of the past, writes Rachel Cooke.

9. Who are the standard-bearers of the Tory right? (Sunday Telegraph)

Liam Fox's intervention on overseas aid shows that the right of the Conservative Party is still a force to be reckoned with, says Tim Montgomerie.

10. They shoot horses, don't they? (New York Times)

The Syrian regime that has been so accustomed to staying in control is getting a taste of what it's like to lose it, says Thomas L Friedman.

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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.