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Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. If we treat Vladimir Putin as a leader who wants to grab Russia’s empire back, we will be inviting him to do exactly that (Independent)

A Cold War bogey of Putin and Russia is lodged in western minds, says Mary Dejevsky. 

2. Spain and Britain need not fear F-word (Financial Times)

Separatists may find answers in federalism, even if it sends semantic shivers up the political spine, says David Gardner.

3.  Here’s why migrants want to come to Britain  (Daily Telegraph)

Entrepreneurs thrive in a country that still values freedom and protects minorities, writes Jeremy Warner. 

4. Stephen Lawrence: the shaming of the Met (Guardian)

These are devastating findings for London's police, a terrible blow on top of dishonesty over Plebgate and the killing of the newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, says a Guardian editorial. 

5. America has a new weapon to use against Russia – the E-Bomb (Daily Telegraph)

The US’s energy power, a product of the shale revolution, is what the Kremlin fears most - in future Vladimir Putin will have to be more careful, says Fraser Nelson. 

6. India’s democracy faces its toughest test yet (Times)

The likely winner of next month’s election wants to Modi-fy his country, writes Philip Collins. Crucially he must make it work for the poor.

7. Visa bans will not deter Putin (Financial Times)

In its own mind Moscow can break any rule it likes and then deny the fact of the transgression, writes Philip Stephens. 

8. Will voters swallow Nick Clegg’s sausage strategy? (Daily Telegraph)

Having spent months blaming their Tory coalition partners, the Lib Dems’ latest wheeze is to take the credit, writes Isabel Hardman. 

9. The strength of Italy's new PM lies in his outsider status (Independent)

Like Mr Berlusconi, he expects to charm and to get his own way, writes Peter Popham. 

10. Not even climate change will kill off capitalism (Guardian)

As long as the conditions for investment and profit remain, the system will adapt, says Razmig Keucheyan. Which is why we need a revolution.

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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.