Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Britain’s bluster serves the eurozone well (Financial Times)

David Cameron is giving the grouping the nudge it needs, writes Wolfgang Munchau

2. When Leveson reports, parliament must act swiftly (Guardian)

MPs of all parties asked for this inquiry. We would be betraying the media's victims if we ignored its findings, writes Ed Miliband

3. A brief glimpse of a better Europe, then back to reality (Guardian)

David Cameron knows the value of working with the EU, but his hands are tied by Tory Europhobes and Ukip, writes Jackie Ashley

4. I see one last, if faint, hope for a truly free British press (Telegraph)

For the Prime Minister to offer the newspapers a final chance would be both statesmanlike and a complete political nightmare, says Matthew d'Ancona

5. Church and State must loosen their bonds (The Times)

It doesn’t need to be divorce. But if Anglicans take their laws from God, they can’t expect us all to follow them, writes Matthew Parris.

6. Horrible singers, horny snowmen and horrendous slave labour (Guardian)

This year's crop of festive high-street commercials feature fey, irritating cover versions and sexist scenarios, writes Charlie Brooker

7. Washington must stop the creeping rust (Financial Times)

The need to invest for the future becomes alarmingly clear, writes Edward Luce

8. Ignorance of paedophilia harms efforts to tackle it (Guardian)

News stories provoke panic but not informed debate. A charity aims to change that, writes Mark Solms

9. I’ve seen the future in India, and Britain can share the spoils (Telegraph)

Indian dynamism puts the eurozone to shame. This is where we need to be doing business, says Boris Johnson

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Britain’s bluster serves the eurozone well

One of the curious things about the EU is a predictable inverse relationship between the amount of money at stake and the time spent on negotiations.

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ab340340-34c9-11e2-99df-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2DJNcUcQa

Britain’s bluster serves the eurozone well

One of the curious things about the EU is a predictable inverse relationship between the amount of money at stake and the time spent on negotiations.

Has Lord Leveson noticed the demonisation of minorities? Writes Yasmin Alibhai Brown

 

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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.