Posts Tagged ‘labour’

Articles

The Good, the Sad and the Nerdy

In Politics on April 22, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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I do hope that most of you have paid attention to the first British election debate held last week on national television. The leaders of the three main parties were invited to discuss questions asked by a sample of British citizens and selected beforehand by broadcasters.
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A fortnight before the main event, a set of 76 detailed rules were announced, to prevent from any kind of uneven treatment. Just like for any other political live debate, the issue of airtime was most crucial. Besides, I found it worthy of interest that the audience was carefully selected in order not to favour a political party over the other two.  It was ensured that at least 80% of them declared a voting intent, with the final selection to ensure a ratio of 7:7:5 between Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters. Those showing a voting preference for minor parties (Green, BNP, UKIP) were represented as well.
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Many issues were addressed in this first electoral debate : Education, Immigration, Law and Order, NHS, Family, Defence… The full house, pretty much. But data, Internet, that we didn’t have. It wasn’t much of a surprise though, to be honest. It is likely that average Joes don’t care much about the wonders of database journalism that lie ahead of us. Nonetheless, one shouldn’t believe that the candidates are not fully aware of the issue, and the political interest at stake.
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Mark my words:who will best tackle the data issue?

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LABOUR PARTY
Gordon Brown, if not the coolest-looking lad in town, was actually the first one to embrace the data gathering process. Beyond mere lip service, the Scot launched in January a gateway for UK government statistics – data.gov.uk – with the cooperation of the Godfather of Web Tim Berners-Lee. An digital offer you can’t refuse, I suppose. Data held so far by public bodies was made available to download for crime, environment or health related queries. At launch, Data.gov.uk had nearly 3,000 data sets available for developers to build mashups with, ReadWriteWeb reveals. Using Sparql queries, the project is a milestone in the UK transparency movement.
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The project follows the footsteps of Where Does My Money Go, an interactive visualization tool based on data retrieved from the HM Treasury in late 2009.
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Da-tax heaven : “Where Does My Money Go ?”
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Labour Manifesto :
View here the Manifesto set by Gordon Brown for this General Election.
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Quote:  “Citizens expect their public services to be transparent, interactive and easily accessible. We will open up government, embedding access to information and data into the very fabric of public services. Citizens should be able to compare local services, demand improvements, choose between providers, and hold government to account.” (page 65)
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Grade : A+, for championing the devolution of energy on this issue. Data-based technologies are seen as a powerful tool to help people access knowledge.
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Top Words : Labour Manifesto Deciphered (source : Guardian Datablog)

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CONSERVATIVE PARTY
On their side, the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, have committed themselves to further government data unlocking, should they be elected. As underlined by Simon Rogers, from the Guardian Datablog, their promises include :
• Publish all government datasets in full or online
• Legislate to create a right to government data
• Publish ultra-local data on crime, health and education
• Publish every item of local and government and quango expenditure over £25,000, plus every project that receives EU funds
• Publish all procurement tender documents for contracts worth over £10,000
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This implies going beyond the Labour’s already substantial offer. For example, a database such as Where Does My Money Go would go through a solid makeover. What is now taking hours of raw data collecting would be available in the blink of an eye :
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In The Now : UK Public Spending Unleashed by The Guardian Datablog

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In the aftermath of the MP expenses scandal and the unauthorized publication of detailed expenditure, full data unlocking is far from granted. Shadow chancellor George Osborne has already promised to make available the Treasury Coins database, the confidential detailed analysis of departmental expenditure. However, there remain significant hurdles before this happens. The Treasury opposes this request as long as intellectual property rights and commercial confidentiality are not guaranteed. On a technical side, it is unlikely the 23 millions line of raw data will be turned into self-speaking, breath-taking visualizations overnight.
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Conservatives Manifesto :
View here the Manifesto set by David Cameron for this General Election.
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Quote: “We will publish details of the money government spends and the people it employs. People will have a right to government data to make the performance of the state transparent. We will cut the unaccountable quango state and root out waste.” (page 169)
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Grade : B, for the obvious willingness to make change happen, despite a slight lack of technical guidelines.
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Top Words : Conservative Manifesto Deciphered (source : Guardian Datablog)

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LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY
Last in line, but ahead in the polls, the Liberal Democrats gave little indication of what they have up their sleeve for the UK technology industry. The party led by Nick Clegg acknowledges the need for government services to share more of their data, insisting on social and health services and the police.
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However, the  manifesto dramatically lacks technical details on how to proceed. Likewise, it is not revealed whether or not the sharing of data should be underpinned by a central IT system.  In the meantime, the party has repeatedly criticised the government’s record on privacy, and made references to plans to strengthen the Data Protection Act.
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LibDem Manifesto
View here the Manifesto set by Nick Clegg for this General Election.
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Quote: “Liberal Democrats will protect and restore your freedoms. We will (…) scrap the intrusive ContactPoint database which is intended to hold the details of every child in England.” (page 94)
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Grade : C, for their lack of actual involvement in the issue, therefore failing to fully grasp how data unleashing could serve their purpose of “Building a Fairer Britain”.
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Top Words : Lib Dems Speech Deciphered (source Blogreuters.com)

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FX.

Articles

Rule, data, data rule the waves…

In Politics on April 14, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

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Having lived for some time in the United Kingdom, I am always paying extra attention when it comes to political events occurring in good ole Britannia. In the midst of this General Election year, there is plenty of information to gather here and there and we are certainly not running out of data to analyse voting trends.

On your mark, set... : PM candidates G. Brown, D. Cameron, N. Clegg

Months before the outcome, it was agreed that the 2010 general Elections will use a new constituency boundaries system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland the boundaries will be the same as 2005. After the election, there will be 650 seats in the House of Commons, four more than the 646 delimited so far. In partisan terms, the new areas give a net benefit to the Conservatives, an official report from the British Parliament revealed. If the 2005 election had been fought on the reshuffled boundaries, the Conservatives would have gained around 12 additional seats and Labour seven fewer. Hence the many potential outcomes generated and the crucial importance of swing voting.
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On Monday, April 5th, the Guardian website provided a visualization of the potential outcomes for the upcoming election.
As explained by Jonathan from Flowing Data, a grid map, a dynamic geographic map and a bar chart allow the visitor to explore the different scenarios of constituencies changing hands.
The swingometer simulates voters moving from one of the three main parties (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dems). It also simulates positions in which there is a general shift from one party to the other two, including where, for instance, a large number of people abandon Labour for the Conservatives and a smaller number for the Lib Dems. Options are the following:
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The digital edition of the Telegraph also offers a visualization of the new constituencies with a dynamic political map, aimed to grasp the issues at stake. The map makes it clear that at least a 6,9% swing is necessary for David Cameron (Conservative party) to settle down at 10 Downing Street. Yet it is suspected that the Telegraph’s chief editor would endorse this outcome ASAP, is such a turnaround realistic for the Tories ? What is the trend like ?

Swing in previous General Elections

Back in 2005. The Labour party, led by incumbent PM Tony Blair, wins the UK general election with 35.3% of the popular British vote. The Conservative Party of Welsh-born Michael Howard is just a few points behind with 32.3% of the votes. However, the constituency system endows the Labour with a significant majority with 356 parliamentary seats as opposed to the 198 seats for the conservative party.

2005 election map

Therefore, David Cameron’s party needs a uniform Lab-Con turnaround to win and reach the 326 (50% +1) seats required for a conservative overall majority. Data show that only two general elections since 1979 have witnessed a swing exceeding 5% from party to another. However, since the 1997 Labour landslide victory was the result of a Con-Lab 10,2%  swing, it would be tricky to rule out an identical scenario. Needless to say, the experience of hung parliament is far from common in the UK, with only one example to date in 1974, following a remarkable status quo (-0,8%) in general election swings.

Poll figures
tend to acknowledge the fact that the Tories are about to win their first election since John Major. However, although David Cameron is riding ahead by about 10 points, his 18 points advance from last summer show that the race is getting tighter and the outcome remains uncertain. Many newspapers, such as the Guardian or the Independent, highlight that Gordon Brown still has a fighting chance, backed up with one of Labour’s best ICM ratings since December 2008.
FX.