Lost deposits

Candidates in a UK Parliamentary Election must pay a deposit – currently £500. If they receive at least 5% of the votes their deposit is returned.

Deposits lost in 2017 by party

In the 2017 General Election there were 1,568 candidates who lost their £500 deposit (47.5% of all candidates). In total £784,000 worth of deposits were forfeited to the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund.

Forfieted deposits in the 2017 general election

Of the three ‘traditional’ parties only Labour had all its candidates secure at least 5% of the vote and therefore receive their deposits back. The Conservatives lost seven deposits worth £3,500; all in Northern Ireland.

The Liberal Democrats had the largest number of lost deposits among the traditional parties, 375 (just under 60% of their candidates). This was the largest loss of deposits the party has ever suffered. Over the last few years the Liberal Democrats (and their predecessor parties) lost only a handful of deposits – between 1983 and 2010 the Party lost an average of 5 at each election. In 2010 no deposits were forfeited. In 2015, 341 were lost. The number lost in 2017 is an increase of 34 (10%) on the 2015 figure.

337 UKIP candidates lost their deposit (89.2% of all UKIP candidates) with a value of £168,500. In 2015, 79 lost their deposits (12.7% of all UKIP candidates).

The Green Party had the largest number of lost deposits of any party in the 2017 General Election, 456 with a value of £228,000. Just under 98% of all Green Party candidates lost their deposit.

How does this compare with previous years?

In 1918, the first year deposits were introduced, 161 candidates failed to receive the necessary share of votes to retain their deposit. In the General Elections between 1918 and 1935 the number of deposits lost ranged from as low as 27 (in 1923) to the 1918 high of 161.

Between 1945 and 1983 the proportion of candidates losing their deposits generally increased. In 1945 around 10.8% of candidates lost their deposit. In 1983 the proportion had increased to 28.7%.

The 1987 General Election was the first after the introduction of larger deposits and reductions needed in the share of the vote. Compared to 1983 the proportion of candidates losing their deposit decreased by 16.3% points.

From 1997 through 2015 the proportion of candidates losing their deposit was around 40%. In 2017 47.5% of candidates forfeited their deposit – the highest proportion ever.

History of deposits

Deposits were first introduced in the Representation of the People Act 1918 due to concerns that there were “frivolous” candidates standing for election. Deposits were meant to discourage candidates from standing who had little chance of winning. Originally the deposit amount was £150 and candidates needed to receive 12.5% of the vote for it to be returned. Since the 1 October 1985 the deposit required has been £500 and the vote share needed lowered to 5%.

To read more analysis of the election download the House of Commons Library 2017 General Election briefing paper.

Picture credit: Polling Station  by Simon ClaysonCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)