FRED imports EU inflation data; stats nerds jump for joy, start charting things

French healthcare inflation vs US healthcare inflation! Beer inflation! Spanish inflation!

A secret weapon in the armoury of economics bloggers is the St Louis Federal Reserve's FRED, a tool which the institution offers to let people explore, manipulate and chart a wide variety of public data. On Wednesday, they added a further 6,000 data series on price levels liberated from Eurostat, the EU's impossible-to-use statistics database. Which means, naturally, that stats junkies have been charting inflation across Europe.

Slate's Matt Yglesias chooses to compare inflation in Germany against inflation in Spain, making the point that, while the two countries' changes in price levels have been very different, the ECB has to make monetary policy which fits them both:

Both series are index to 100 at 2005, but you can see clearly that Spain (red) has been experiencing higher inflation that Germany (blue) for some time now.

Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal goes with a comparison between French and US healthcare inflation, which handily demonstrates the ludicrous explosion in prices experienced by the latter. I decided to throw the UK into the comparison as well, which places us in the middle, but bear in mind that, with a single-payer system, consumer prices don't reflect the true cost of healthcare in the country.

For reasons known only to themselves, FRED also choose to break beer prices out into their own seperate category. Which allows me to present the good news of the day: the price of beer in Britain has remained largely unchanged over the last decade, even while everything else has risen by 30 per cent.

FRED: fun for all the (nerdy, stats-obsessed) family!

A cup of beer. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.