LBC Views: My week of baseball, Coldstream Guards and cannabis with Sadiq

13 May 2022, 09:26

Rachael Venables spent the week with the Mayor of London in the USA, this is her LBC Views
Rachael Venables spent the week with the Mayor of London in the USA, this is her LBC Views. Picture: LBC
Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

From parading Coldstream Guards in Times Square; to a San Francisco Giants baseball game; and cannabis farm by the Hollywood Hills, Sadiq Khan’s whistle stop tour of America was nothing if not varied.

It appeared that everywhere he went the Mayor got a warm reception, though perhaps this was helped by picking liberal States, and Democrat Mayors to visit and meet.

No doubt his favourite of the three was his New York compatriot Eric Adams, who dubbed Khan the "rockstar of Mayors." with Khan returning the favour by saying Adams had the "second best job in politics."

The aims of the trip were tourism, trade, climate change and jobs. Khan said (roughly 18 times at my count) that he was here "banging the drum" for London; selling the Queen’s jubilee year to any American who would listen - and even some who didn’t.

He’s trying to encourage Americans to take their dollars (currently strong against a weak pound) and spend their money in London.

That’s where his Conservative critics back home say he should have stayed, furious at the expense of a mayor travelling stateside during a cost of living crisis.

He retorts that for London to be a Global City, he needs to be a ‘Global Mayor,’ as he booked in valuable minutes in meetings with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Hilary Clinton.

The most insightful part of the trip came during a Q&A for Stanford University Speaker’s Bureau.

Minutes after Elon Musk announced he would let Trump back on Twitter, Khan spoke about the avalanche of racist abuse that came with the President’s election - and the way it let off when he was banned form the site last year.

He was also scathing about the Conservative Government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda.

And he told the enthused student he didn’t get "imposter syndrome" because "there are many mediocre people in top jobs," before digging in that Boris Johnson should have imposter syndrome because he’s “rubbish.”

You don’t need me to tell you the students loved that.

But for his critics, by far the most controversial part of the trip came on Wednesday, when he toured a cannabis farm and store in LA, to announce the chair of a Commission into the UK’s drugs policy.

Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: “Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London.

“The Mayor has no powers to legalise drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives.” And even his own party made it clear cannabis is illegal, and decriminalisation not one of their policies.

But this is clearly a topic on which the Labour Mayor - newly reelected on an increased mandate - feels he has a mandate to chart his own course.

Cannabis is a drug that comes with many health risks, but it’s illegality means users currently fuel drug gangs, child exploitation and street violence.

This is the conversation our ‘open minded’ Mayor says he wants to have.

But, despite firing the starting gun on decriminalisation, and much to the disappointment of the journalists following his trip, I can confirm he didn’t spend a dime in the cannabis store.