Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Baker’s vocational lesson for young Mr Gove (Times) (£)

I’ve always been a believer in an old-school generalist education but visiting the JCB Academy has shifted my thinking, says Matthew Parris.

2. Britons still don’t believe that the Tories are on their side (FT) (£)

As things stand, the Conservative party faces defeat in 2015, writes Michael Ashcroft.

3. Walking away from Leveson is not acceptable (Guardian)

The press's alternative royal charter is a brazen attempt by powerful newspaper proprietors to remain unaccountable, says Christopher Jefferies.

4. James Boswell revolutionised the way we see great men – and women (Telegraph)

Ever since the 'Life of Samuel Johnson’, the biography has been a force in British culture, says Charles Moore, authorised biographer of Margaret Thatcher.

5. The IMF's check-up will give George Osborne another headache (Independent)

Miliband may need five symbolic cuts to convince that he means business on the deficit, says Andrew Grice.

6. Want to boost the economy? Ban all meetings (Guardian)

David Cameron has had the cabinet table extended so more spads can fit around it. Wave goodbye to productivity at No 10, says Marina Hyde.

7. ‘Eton is dedicated to public service’, says No 10 adviser Jesse Norman (Times) (£)

Jesse Norman, David Cameron’s new policy adviser, insists it won’t be all Old Etonian mates at No 10, he tells Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson.

8. Could he trigger a snap general election? (Daily Mail)

Mr Clegg threatens that if David Cameron pulls out of the convention to allow the extremist Islamist to be sent to Jordan, the Coalition could collapse, writes Simon Heffer.

9. Scandal of social housing sell-offs putting more on homeless waiting lists (Mirror)

With more than two million people looking for somewhere to live, this cynical vote-buying exercise has to be reined in, says Paul Routledge.

10. Planet Tory has just got a whole lot more like today’s Planet Britain (Telegraph)

David Cameron's U-turns are reminiscent of Mrs Thatcher's banana skins in the Eighties; then, as now, the real opposition was Conservative MPs, says Graeme Archer.

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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.