Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Do we sit back and let Homs burn? (Financial Times)

Nations should impose a comprehensive quarantine of Syria, argues Michael Ignatieff.

2. The anger is right. It doesn't make cuts wrong (Times) (£)

When you tighten up benefits, there will be painful injustices, writes Daniel Finkelstein. But we cannot afford our old welfare system.

3. Leveson's phone-hacking show trial has a cruel virtue (Guardian)

My Leveson scepticism is fading, says Simon Jenkins. Public humiliation of Murdoch and co is where its value lies, not judgments on media reform.

4. Whisper it, but things are looking up for Britain Plc (Daily Mail)

The Chancellor has new reasons to be optimistic in his March Budget, says Alex Brummer.

5. China is right to open up slowly (Financial Times)

Discussion is needed for a successful timetable of reform, writes Martin Wolf.

6. Hit Argentina where it hurts - in the wallet (Daily Telegraph)

Despite the Falklands sabre-rattling, British aid to Buenos Aires continues to flow, writes Nancy Soderberg.

7. Let us never forget the stench of this rank corruption (Independent)

Leveson is no evil plot to stifle genuine reporting, says Matthew Norman. We're staring at a tornado of organised crime.

8. The fight for democratic change can't be left to Occupy (Guardian)

This Occupy movement isn't only for heretics, write Naomi Colvin and George Barda. We need a world where citizens and activists are the same.

9. British students deserve better from Alex Salmond (Daily Telegraph)

Scotland's unfair university system discriminates against the rest of the UK, says Michael Forsyth.

10. How ECB's big bazooka saved eurozone's banks - and may again (Independent)

A central bank's job is to meet a liquidity crisis by producing unlimited cash, writes Hamish McRae.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

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