Junkets are like buses: you wait ages for one to come along and then two do at once. For this month, it's not just London mayor Sadiq Khan on a transatlantic taxpayer-funded jolly: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches her American charm offensive next week too. Good thing that all is going well currently in both parts of the UK then. While both politicians sit for different parties in different assemblies, they both share a similar love of the limelight, with a penchant for selfies, statements and sojourns abroad. And it's for that reason that both politicians are seeking to go above and beyond their constitutional remits on both their respective trips.
Take Sadiq Khan, the achingly right-on manager of the metropolis. As part of his five-day tour of the US, he is currently out in Los Angeles where yesterday he toured a marijuana farm and retailer. Khan’s visit signals that he will seek to push for legalisation of the class B drug, with the London mayor announced that Sir Keir's chum Lord Falconer will chair London's first commission to examine the effectiveness of drug laws in the UK. There is just one slight drawback: the mayor of London does not actually have the power to decriminalise drugs. Instead Khan merely 'hopes that the findings will influence future government policy.' Perhaps Khan might want to focus on tackling the crimes he is responsible for, rather than reviewing laws over which he has no jurisdiction?
Nicola Sturgeon meanwhile is very much the queen of deflection, having spent much of her leadership talking about every issue other than those in her remit. Her five-day 'indy tour' is set to see her meet with congressional groups to discuss 'issues of climate, energy security and the war in Ukraine' and 'ways to create a greener, fairer and more equitable economy with executives of companies operating across the Atlantic.' Lucky them. It follows the launch of Scotland’s Global Affairs Framework and a fresh push to spend Scottish taxpayers' issue on yet another pet project.
Steerpike can't help but think however that such conversations in America are unlikely to be fruitful – given that foreign policy is a reserved matter, no matter how much the SNP pretends it isn't. And while much of Britain's fiscal fire power remains with Rishi Sunak's Treasury, the nationalists in Scotland have shown remarkably little interest in playing with the tools already at their disposal, despite having the power to raise or reduce income tax. Nicola can meet as many chief executives as she wants but if the captains of industry really want a 'greener, fairer and more equitable economy' they may prefer to deal directly with the stewards of the world's sixth best economy in London.
Is it too much to hope perhaps that either leader simply focus on the job they were elected to do, rather than gallivanting about on the world stage, pretending to be something they're not? Mr S won't hold his breath.