On systems thinking and election behaviours

Alastair Somerville
2 min readJul 7, 2024


Read for free at https://acuity.design/on-systems-thinking-and-election-behaviours/

Stamp image with text Stop appling proportional representation ideas of % of vote to criticism of of a first past the post general election
Alastair Somerville 2024

Just on Systems Thinking, there is quite a lot of criticism of the Labour victory in the UK General Election based on ‘% of vote’ statistics.

This is not helpful or meaningful tho.

The UK has a First Past The Post (FPTP) system of elections not a Proportional Representation (PR) system. ‘% of vote’ is not a relevant factor when citizens are shifting voting behaviours to raise or lower a specific party candidate’s lump of votes. With both tactical voting shifting votes between opposition parties and ‘stay at home’ protests affecting incumbent MPs, the ‘% of vote’ does not represent anything meaningful within this system.

‘% of vote’ and its meaning is useful when critiquing and comparing alternative voting systems (PR vs. FPTP) but not within the FPTP system.

UK voters know how to shift their votes within the system they are within. As Iain M. Banks noted in a story, it’s hard to tell if Socialism failed when it was playing by the rules of football in a world where everyone else played by rules of cricket (I may have mixed up which games they were).

Don’t critique users of a system for failing to behave in a way that is irrelevant to the rules and structures of that system they are within. Use it when comparing and contrasting differing systems.

Originally published at https://acuity.design on July 7, 2024.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX