The General Election
When I wrote an article on the 2017 general election, I had no idea that just two short years later I'd be back writing for another general election, the third general election in less than 5 years.
It's something we associate with other European countries where hung parliaments are common. Politics in the UK is supposed to be stable, almost boring. Well, the past few years have turned the UK's traditional, liberal, centrist political stability on its head.
During the years of New Labour I remember thinking how similar the Tories and Labour were - there was very little difference in policy and it was like choose option (a) or choose option (a) - with little real actual choice. I can't say that anymore. Both main parties have been hijacked by extremists. Labour is now further left than at any point in my time on this planet, while the Tories are flirting dangerously with the far-right. While we have a choice now - it doesn't seem like an appealing one.
As with my last article, this isn't about telling you who to vote for, but a call to go out and vote. After all, an engaged Sikh electorate means we can pressure politicians to hold our vote to account and ensure issues affecting our community have ears in the corridors of Whitehall.
Catalunya and Catalan nationalism
I fell in love with Catalunya the first time that I visited. The people of Catalunya remind me of Panjabis in so many ways. Their openness and welcoming nature is coupled with a fierce independence and cultural identity that is remarkably similar to Panjabis, and Sikhs in particular. The relationship of Catalans with the Spanish state is also similar to the relationship of Panjabis with India. Both regions have elements of a shared history with their respective states, but differences in language and culture effectively make them a nation within a nation.
I returned a number of times to Catalunya, including attending a Summer School at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, and each time I felt an increasing attachment with the area. Not only do the Catalan people remind me of Panjab, but the city of Barcelona has a large Panjabi population, and I was surprised to see just how many Sikhs now call the city their home. Even more impressively, I spoke to the Giani of a local Gurdwara who told me that not only do the locals treat them with respect, but they actually attend the Gurdwara in large numbers on weekends as part of yoga retreats where they learn about, and respect the Sikh belief system.
It's this love for Catalunya that had me so interested in the recent Catalan independence referendum, a vote that highlighted to me many similarities with the independence movement for Panjab in India.
The General Election
On 18 April 2017, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May announced that she would be calling an election on 8 June 2017. This follows a General Election in 2015, just two years earlier.
The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 had removed the power of the Prime Minister to call an election at the drop of a hat, or when conditions were favourable to the governing party. Under the Act, elections would be held every five years unless the House of Commons voted by two thirds to the contrary. With the spectre of Brexit hanging over the country and the opposition party in disarray, Theresa May decided this would be the perfect opportunity to strengthen her position both domestically and in terms of negotiating the withdrawal from the EU.
Unfortunately for her, as the campaign season kicked off, she began to show signs of weakness, no matter how many times she said she was "strong and stable", whilst the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn somehow got his sh*t together and began closing the gap in polls. Now, for all intents and purposes, the question isn't whether the Conservatives will win, but by how much they will win, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go out and vote.
I'm not telling you who to vote for, you should do the research and make an informed decision. However, for the Sikh community to prosper, we need to become more politically engaged and therefore I will say; go out and vote.
It's the election that shocked the world. On Tuesday 8 November 2016, the United States of America elected Donald Trump to be its 45th President.
America is a country built on progressive ideals. An open country that has become the superpower it is today through immigration from all parts of the world. A country that has championed free trade and as Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, the 'equality of all men'.
Its precisely for these reasons that it was so shocking to see America turn its back on those very ideals and elect a President who has built his whole campaign on hatred and protectionism. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the world will end just because Donald Trump is President, but it makes you wonder what makes a country such as America elect such a controversial figure.
I have read numerous comments and articles denigrating Americans for their choice of leader. Although I agree that the Government-Corporate machinery that is America is heading down a dark path, I still believe that Americans are honest, decent and hardworking people who do not deserve all the negative attention they are receiving.
During the 2015 election period, the Conservative Party pledged in their manifesto to hold a referendum before 2020 on the issue of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). Following consultations, the Government decided to set a date of Thursday 23 June 2016 for the vote.
After initial engagement in politics during teenage years, the 21-35 year old demographic has a huge drop in political engagement, however, this is one of the most important decisions of our generation, and one that will touch on almost every aspect of our lives whether directly or indirectly.
I tend to keep my blog as politically neutral as possible, if I wanted a blog on politics, I'd make one (and probably have a readership in single digits). However, the referendum has important ramifications for those of us who are interested in travelling and seeing the world. 76% of all foreign holidays are to EU Member States. Unlike most publications I've read on this topic, I'll keep this relatively high level, brief and focused on the affect of the vote on travelling.
Waking up to another mindless act of terror is becoming far too regular an occurrence. From Paris, to Ankara, Istanbul and now Brussels, a group financed by large amounts of foreign oil money and twisted by warped ideologies is causing destruction on a global scale not seen in years.
My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of all those in Brussels who either lost their lives or suffered life changing injuries for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After any such incident the first thoughts should always be with those suffering, whether its Belgian families who have lost sons and daughters, French citizens who have seen their beautiful capital attacked on a number of occasions or Middle Eastern families who face such acts on a regular basis.
British Sikh in my twenties, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.