Introduction to the {ukpolice} package

The ukpolice R package downloads data from the UK Police public data API, the full docs of which are available at It is now available on CRAN, so can be installed with install.packages("ukpolice"). The API uses a ‘leaky bucket’ rate limiter, which allows for 15 requests per second with a burst of 30. This allows for 15 requests each second, but up to 30 in a single second at one go. [Read More]

The overlap between incapacity and cost-of-disability benefits

Earlier this week the DWP secretary Amber Rudd announced a series of changes to the disability benefits system, including scrapping re-assessment for pensioners and possibly combining the assessment for the two main working-age disability benefits: Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a means-tested benefit providing financial support to unemployed disabled people, and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a needs-tested benefit to help with the additional cost of living associated with disability. [Read More]

Potatoes in World Literature

Potatoes are an undeniably important vegetable, far more important to human history than say, brocolli. The History and Social Influence of the Potato is 768 pages long, and “an extraordinary book, like no other, a vast compendium of curious fact and passionately recounted social history that calls to mind an unexpected but completely satisfying fusion of The Anatomy of Melancholy and Fernand Braudel’s Capitalism and Material Life”, according to Angela Carter. [Read More]

Introducing guardianapi

My newest R data retrieval package guardianapi to arrive on CRAN contains functions to search and retrieve articles, tags and editions from the Guardian open data platform. I wrote this package because I was wondering why the Guardian comedy critic Brian Logan never seemed to give five or one star reviews, and if this was actually the case or just the reviews of his I happened to read. I got every review from the start of 2014 to the end of 2018, across all sections, and selected the following sections for analysis: “Art and design”, “Film”, “Games”, “Music”, “Stage”, “Technology”, “Television & radio”. [Read More]

The Impossibility of Negative Splits

The gold standard in any kind of racing, particularly running, is the negative split, covering the second half of a race faster than the first. Running a negative split takes enormous confidence and pacing ability, often requiring a runner to let their competitors go, believing that they will be able to chase them down before the end of the race. And off the track it takes a course where they second half isn’t any tougher than the first. [Read More]

Visualising Disability Benefit Appeals

From April 2009 to March 2018 3,211,514 social security and child support decisions have been appealed to an independent tribunal. These appeals are heard by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS). 2,650,943 of those appeals have been on disability benefit decisions, 82.5% of the total. Of these, 852,488, or 47.4%, were successful. However, the success rate on appeal has gone up over time. From April 2017 to March 2018, disabled people won 67. [Read More]

The Onterrible politics of the NDP

I’m back in Ontario (and Canada) for the first time in roughly 3.5 years to find the province in the midst of a pre-election phony war. The election isn’t until 7 June, and the official election period hasn’t even started yet, but the campaign has already started to get underway, particularly as the party most likely to win the election – the Progressive Conservatives – have just elected a new leader when their old leader resigned after a series of allegations of sexual misconduct. [Read More]

Coffee and Freedom

Does coffee make us free? Do free people drink more coffee? The European enlightenment has been linked to the introduction of tea and coffee from Asia and the Middle East and the rise of coffeehouse culture, as it displaced beer and wine as the daytime drink of choice, and as people were no longer slightly drunk all the time, they began to ask more critical questions about the societies they were living in. [Read More]

Golf and train stations

Last summer, Alasdair Rae at the University of Sheffield wrote a blog post showing that about 0.54% of the UK is golf course. It’s not much, Rae described it as roughly the same area as Greater Manchester; although in comparison it is roughly twice as much space as urban parks (0.27% of the UK), and more than four times as much as the amount of continuous urban fabric (0. [Read More]

Economic Participation and Productivity

Yesterday afternoon (December 6th, 2017), Finance Minister Philip Hammond sparked alarm and condemnation for suggesting that the UK’s stubbornly low productivity rate was due to the high employment rate and larger numbers of disabled workers. His exact quote was: It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements. [Read More]