One of the benefits of an interactive visualisation is the ability to zoom in and out of the data, altering the scale of analysis. From summaries and averages to individual data points or specific periods in space and time.

Earlier this year, the Bank of England published three centuries of data. The following visualisation explores the politics of finance over the past century.

Read on or Click Here to view the interactive visualisation

Bank of England Dashboard - click on image to go to interactive visualisation

Screenshot of the Bank of England dashboard.
Click to view interactive visualisation

One of the benefits of an interactive visualisation is the ability to zoom in and out of the data, altering the scale of analysis. From summary statistics presenting averages to individual data points or specific periods in space and time. Here are some of the discoveries from the Bank of England data.

Who benefits in a recession?

The last government (2010 – 2015) was a coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. They went into power in the middle of a global recession and pursued an austerity plan. Going into the election, the UK was experiencing one of the fastest financial recoveries as a nation and the Conservatives couldn’t figure out why people weren’t grateful:

…given that we have accelerating growth, millions more people in work, falling unemployment and a generally positive story to tell, in contrast with most of our neighbours, [why] is the economy stupidly failing to produce a Conservative lead in the polls?

Well let’s check the numbers:

Bank of England statistics during the recession
Bank of England data in chart form

The table shows the average numbers for GDP, interest rates, bond yields and house prices from 2007 to 2012. The charts help emphasise what happened – interest rates and house price growth plummeted whilst bond yields held. Take a guess where you should have put your money during that period. Then take a guess at which population demographic is most likely to own bonds…

Why is productivity still flat in the UK

The UK has one of the worst productivity rates of Western Europe. If we were as productive as France or Germany, we could take Friday off each week and still produce the same amount of stuff… get’s my vote 🙂 Whilst there may be reasons to be concerned about productivity compared to our European neighbours, there is also the reality that we may be reaching peak human productivity under a technology boom that began in the mid-1950s.


The chart above shows changes in productivity and working hours over the past century. There are two very interesting points. The years when productivity rates crossed above hours worked, and the year when the productivity rate per hour went above the productivity rate per head. What do they suggest? Focus on technology, not people, to improve performance… The challenge? Just about every aspect of the political system is built around the concept of the ‘job’. Workers are supposed to work, not take Friday’s off to spend time with their families and behave like landed gentry.

Are the political parties really all that different?


That’s the short answer. There’s a general belief that the Conservative and Labour parties are fundamentally different. Conservatives look after the rich and are prudent with the Treasury, favouring lower taxes and lower spending. Labour look after the poor and behave like kids in the candy store when in control of the Treasury, spending more than they should. I wondered if these stereotypes are true…


The chart above shows how much tax is raised and spent per £1 generated in GDP over the past 100 years. You can see the answer for yourselves. There is scant difference between the two political parties. Some may try arguing that it takes a political term for one party to fix any damage they consider to have been done by the previous government. And there is an element of truth – the first term is usually about seeing through existing commitments unless there is some other turmoil to deal with. That’s why it is useful to be able to not only see the overall average statistics, but also drill down into the individual data points to see if the averages verify or mask reality.

And that’s the beauty of interactive visualisations. They provide more transparency about what the data is saying by enabling you to look behind summaries that may hide important details. Thanks to digital developments, it is now possible to interact with data using freely available tools that do not require specialist expertise to navigate.

You can view and interact with all the above charts using any modern web browser with JavaScript is enabled. To try it for yourself, visit the Bank of England visualisation.

For those interested in the technical details, the interactive charts and tables were all created using D3.js and DC.js.


p.s. If you are interested in the course Smart Cities and Urban Analytics, visit the CASA web site for details.

boe-headerFeatured image at the top of this post: Annual GDP growth for the UK from 1901 to 2013

Blog, Data Science, Visual Analytics
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