Data: A Gift that Keeps Giving

Posted: March 30, 2011 in My Data Journey, News Story
Tags: , , , , , ,

As part of my data journey, I’m learning to scrape. And so I’m looking for small pieces of data in the usual forms to work on first. That being said, I decided to scrape a csv file of UK Ministerial Gifts received in Cabinet Office 2009-10.

For all you novices out there, csv is a basic spreadsheet format which you can open in Excel so it’s fairly usable. That being said, from a data journalism point of view it was less than clean. All the departments were entered and ones which didn’t receive anything had a ‘NIL RETURN’ entry under ‘Minister’. I have no use for that. And the department entry was left empty if the next gift fell under the same department. I had to fix that with code. The entry of dates is appalling. But my main issue is with the data collection. Only gifts worth over £140 are registered. I doubt some poor civil servant is calling up foreign dignitaries to ask how much that bottle of wine you gave the PM is worth, so most gifts are valued at ‘Over limit’. Regardless, as an exercise, here’s what’s of interest:

The King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, gave Alastair Darling jewellery! He also gave Gordon and Sarah Brown an ornament and jewellery.

Nick Keller, founder of Beyond Sport, gave Tessa Jowell a travel alarm clock worth over £140. Beyond sport ambassadors include Tony Blair, Michael Johnson and Dame Kelly Holmes.

Other gifts by non-dignitaries include: Bathrobe, slippers, towels set, and a bed linen set for Gordon Brown from Enrico Marinelli, EMI gave a selection of CDs to Ben Bradshaw (some of which he purchased), Lola Rose gave jewellery and a scarf to Sarah Brown, Naomi Campbell gave her a hamper, and Sir Gulam Noon (a controversial Labour donor) gave Gordon Brown a hamper.

No. 10 must be full of rugs, 3 from Pakistan, 1 from Afghanistan and 1 from Azerbaijan.

Wine given by Nicholas Sarkozy and the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, were used for official entertainment whereas that given by the President of Tunisia and the Sultan of Brunei were given to charity. Either they didn’t bring good enough wine or Nicholas Sarkozy and Abdelaziz Bouteflika didn’t trust No. 10 to stock good enough wine.

I think I’m going to hack gifts for s bit so stay tuned.

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