Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. A-level reforms: Michael Gove's bid to grab headlines will merely narrow pupils' learning (Guardian)

The education secretary, an ex-journalist, knows how to sell reforms for the rightwing press, writes Peter Wilby. But it's no way to run our schools.

2. Coalition's constituency boundary reforms are a complete mess and an insult to voters (Daily Mail)

Trust will be reduced, confidence eroded and the political class once again will lose public faith for playing irrelevant games, writes David Blunkett.

3. Could the Tories' plan for re-election in 2015 cost just 10p? (Guardian)

A new tax band might entice hard-hit voters to look again at the party, and would be billed as righting a Labour wrong, writes Gavin Kelly. 

4. Modern Essex man who has the key to victory (Times) (£)

Europe alone won’t be enough to win in 2015, writes Tim Montgomerie. The Conservatives must become the party of the little people.

5. Why the left should support a referendum on Europe (Guardian)

 The EU is an elite project without popular support, says Vernon Bogdanor. Labour can bring it back to the people.

6. Only a coward would deny the people their voice on Europe (Daily Telegraph)

Ed Miliband's rejection of an in-out EU referendum is blatantly undemocratic, argues Boris Johnson.

7. Time to decide on UK defence policy (Financial Times)

Cameron must scale back either the rhetoric or the cuts, says an FT editorial. 

8. What my generation can learn from the Holocaust (Independent)

We should recall that hatred continues to be fanned against entire peoples, and that man is capable of both wonderful benevolence and unspeakable horrors, writes Owen Jones.

9. We need a big speech on the economy now (Sun)

The measures planned by new Bank of England governor Mark Carney will be controversial, writes Trevor Kavanagh. Cameron must explain them to voters worried about their jobs and savings.

10. An open letter to Nick Clegg on the matter of his children possibly being educated privately (Independent)

The Deputy Prime Minister, educated at Westminster School himself, says the State sector isn't good enough for his children, writes John O'Farrell. He doesn't know what he's talking about.

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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.