Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. I want to challenge power that is unaccountable (Guardian)

The unresponsive state can be as damaging as the untamed market, says Ed Miliband. We want people to be able to control their own lives.

2. It is a disgrace that there are so few women Conservative ministers. But that they are all white is even more so (Independent)

Diversity of late has been about gender parity, not about race or class, writes Yasmin Alibhai Brown. 

3. It’s too late to tell Scots to believe in Britain (Times)

Cameron’s plea for a strong and united nation rings hollow after so much loss of sovereignty, says Melanie Phillips. 

4. Abe’s nationalism takes a worrying turn (Financial Times)

The attempt to stifle Japan’s national broadcaster is deplorable, says an FT editorial. 

5. To do business with India and China, Britain needs to lose its imperial swagger (Guardian)

The sins of empire are still etched in the minds of many of the UK's global partners, writes Chris Huhne. Our soft power is the best antidote.

6. Banning smoking in cars is bizarre, intrusive – and right (Daily Telegraph)

Unusually for a libertarian free spirit, this time I’m with the bossyboots brigade, says Boris Johnson. 

7. The number of women sentenced to death across the Middle East has very little to do with justice (Independent)

Young women who have been killed in their thousands across the Middle Eastern region should be listed, at least in the afterworld, on some roll of martyrdom, writes Robert Fisk. 

8. Why aren't middle-aged women the face of angry protest? (Guardian)

Women over 50 face deep injustices, yet tend to stay silent in public, writes Melissa Benn. Let's hijack the news cycle with an act of wit and daring.

9. Some big ideas Labour might like to consider (Daily Telegraph)

The party has a few more sacred cows to slay – and apologies to make – before it can become a credible alternative voice, says a Telegraph editorial. 

10. The Fed’s waning magic in Yellen’s era (Financial Times)

With a forecast year of take-off in danger of faltering, the central bank has run out of ammunition, says Edward Luce.

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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.