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:
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:
“20’s Plenty for Us is a voluntary organisation that campaigns for the introduction of a default 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limit for residential streets and urban streets. By seeking to obtain implementation across a complete local authority or community then the organisation believes that worthwhile speed reductions can be achieved without the usual physical calming features.” (Wikipedia) In collaboration with Rod King of 20’s Plenty and Danny Dorling of Oxford University we looked at how far the campaign has gotten so far with convincing local authorities to implement a speed limit of 20 mph in residential areas. Today 12.5 million people live in areas where cars travel more slowly. Although nationally pedestrian deaths on the road are still rising, it marks a first step towards more road safety by a very simple measure. Looking at the spatial patterns, the implementation can be observed all across the United Kingdom, though there appear to be very little on a conventional map. Looking at the issue through an equal-population projection reveals the real extent and puts a spotlight on these areas that really matter for this measure: the most densely populated areas. Here it can be seen that the majority of Scottish people live in areas where 20 mph zones are prevalent, just as the Liverpool-Manchester region (and Sheffield) have seen very successful campaigns, while in other parts of the country the red patches are still covering very large shares of the population:
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:
The 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.
55.25% of the votes cast at last week’s independence referendum in Scotland were ‘No’ according to the Electoral Management Board for Scotland (EMB), meaning that Scotland stays a part of the United Kingdom. While the results have been mapped all across the media (I recommend Olli O’Brien’s interactive map for that one), I haven’t come across and cartogram visualisation so far. So here we go…the missing map of the Scotland Independence Referendum 2014: The first two maps show a cartogram of the Scottish Local Government Areas resized according to the total number of votes cast at the referendum. The colours on top of the maps show the (remarkably high) turnout on the left map – apart from Glasgow (75%) and Dundee (78.8%) was above 80% in all areas, figures unseen in any democracies in recent years (compare this for example to the turnout at this year’s European elections or at last year’s general election in Germany). The map on the right shows the share of votes going to either side of the campaign: