Changing Political Landscapes of Britain

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Three days after the UK general election, the formation of a new (old) Conservative government is in full preparation with few new faces on the one side, and soul searching and the search for new faces on the other side of the political spectrum. There has also been plenty of joy for map lovers (even if they may not be equally happy with the outcome), including my own map series of the winning parties in each constituency. The following map series uses the same approach but shows further details on how things have changed in the political landscape of the country compared to the 2010 general election:

Map views of the 2015 General Election in the United Kingdom
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Visualising your UK constituency

The UK general election is fast approaching. Following the first almost-debate of the would-like-to-be Prime Ministers the battle for the ‘correct’ interpretation of the state of the nation has come into its final stage. Statistics are easy to twist, and there is never an absolute truth in them. In a collaboration with the Office for National Statistics I was involved in the creation of a little interactive visualisation feature that sheds light on some key statistics that show life in the constituencies around the country. Using a conventional map and a hexagon cartogram of the United Kingdom we looked at house prices, income, public sector employment, education, age, migration, and health which can be interactively explored and compared in both map views. The following map is one example from that feature, showing the share of people not born in the United Kingdom:

Cartogram and map showing the share of the population born abroad in the United Kingdom
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Rising high: A brief history of the housing market

House price monopoly would be a better name for what has turned into a defining political issue ahead of the 2015 general election. As the ONS states in its latest release of long-term housing sales data, “the average price of sold houses in England and Wales has more than doubled since 1995” and “nearly a million properties were sold in 2013.” The dynamics of the housing market is about more than people looking for a place to live. It has become a substantial part of the British economy.
The following cartogram animation puts this trend into a vivid perspective. It shows the absolute value of all housing stock sold in a year for the regions of England as well as the boroughs of London, which itself becomes ever more dominant over the past two decades. Only in economic weaker times it loses some of its pace compared to the rest of England, but stays way ahead of any other region. The animation also takes the absolute value displayed in each map into account by resizing England according to the total value represented in each map, so that the full cartogram itself grows (and shrinks after the crash in 2008) over time:

Cartogram animation of sold housing value from 1995 to 2014
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British War Deaths

2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. As all around Europe, the British government made extensive plans to commemorate this accordingly (Prime Minister David Cameron’s words of the commemoration saying something about the British people like the Diamond Jubilee celebration were commented critically, while meanwhile commercial advertisers have discovered the emotional power of World War I). So-called Remembrance Day in November saw the display of a poppy field at the Tower of London as a commemoration of soldiers who died in war, a symbol which was introduced following the aftermath of World War I in 1921. But while today’s times are often referred to as the post-war era since the end of World War II, wars keep being fought, and soldiers from countries such as the United Kingdom keep dying in conflicts around the world. Last months the Independent Newspaper published figures from the UK Ministry of Defence (which I spotted on one of Alan Parkinson’s blogs) listing all 7,145 British military deaths since World War Two (including a count of deaths in Northern Ireland). I used that data and edited it according to today’s geography (such as splitting the number of British casualties during the 1950-1954 UN intervention in Korea equally between South and North Korea or assigning the deaths in the former British colonies to today’s independent countries) to draw the following Worldmapper-style cartogram that shows how far we are from living in a post-war era:

Map of the distribution of British War Deaths since 1945
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In Focus: Wealth on the British Isles

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Political InsightThe debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.

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Born abroad: A look at the Population of the UK

According to a BBC News feature, “trends in migration are changing. Once, migrants from the same country tended to cluster in areas where they had relatives or friends. But new maps of England and Wales, reveal that for more recent migrants this is no longer the case” The maps of which this quote speak are a short series of cartograms created in collaboration of the BBC with the University of Sheffield in which we took a look at the first set of data from the 2011 Census in the United Kingdom (with much more detailed statistics due early next year). This is how some of the trends analysed by the BBC look like, using a gridded population cartogram of the country as a basemap for the lower maps shown here:

Cartogram / Map series of people born abroad according to the 2011 UK Census

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