MOVES are underway to deselect veteran Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope by local Conservatives, the Echo understands.

The dramatic decision came at an emergency meeting of the Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association executive committee on Saturday afternoon.

It comes just a week after the latest public outcry over the MP's actions in the House of Commons, this time over a bill on Female Genital Mutilation, to which he objected on procedural grounds.

Leading Brexiteer Sir Christopher, 71, who has represented Christchurch since 1997, was not at the executive meeting, but was telephoned with the news by supporters afterwards.

The move officially triggers a reselection process as speculation grows over a June general election.

But the MP's backers say it is the start of an attempt to deselect him.

The motion was proposed by Councillor Lisle Smith and seconded by Cllr Ray Nottage.

As the sitting MP he does have the right to be considered as a candidate.

It is understood to be procedurally difficult to deselect a sitting Tory MP.

But reselection is not just about his activities in the Commons.

The MP had been the leading opponent of the merger of Christchurch with Bournemouth and Poole, a position that left him isolated among Dorset MPs and at odds with the nine pro-merger councillors in Christchurch and others in East Dorset.

Ironically he has the biggest Tory majority in the country, around 23,000.

The executive committee meeting was chaired by Cllr Ray Bryan who was unavailable for comment.

Cllr David Jones, deputy chairman (political) of the association told the Echo there had been a meeting and a statement would be issued in due course. He declined to discuss the matter further.

Sir Christopher's objection to a Private Members' Bill to ban upskirting last year attracted widespread criticism from constituents, campaigners and fellow MPs. Then came the FGM issue which for many was the last straw.

He has been branded a dinosaur and North Dorset MP Simon Hoare tweeted last week it was time he 'buggered off.'

Sir Christopher has always insisted that his controversial objections to bills are on the grounds that the government should make parliamentary time for the legislation to ensure they are debated properly.

But he also admitted he doesn't block the bills of his friends.

The finer points of arcane constitutional matters have been generally lost on the public, with the MP increasingly seen as out of touch.

Senior local Tories have become concerned that with key elections on May 2 to the new Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council and to the rural Dorset council, Sir Christopher had become an electoral liability.

Sir Christopher, who was knighted last year, was elected MP for Christchurch in 1997, regaining the seat from the Liberal Democrats, in the general election that saw Labour sweep to power.

He was previously MP for Southampton Itchen and served as roads minister under Margaret Thatcher.

Sir Christopher was not available for comment on Sunday morning.