ONE OF THE safest Tory seats in the UK is allegedly split down the middle over its choice of MP, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Christchurch and East Dorset - where MP Sir Chris Chope is sitting on a majority of 25,000 - held a packed meeting in St Leonards on Saturday where the party's executive committee refused to endorse the veteran member.

Sir Chris would normally expect to sail through such an occasion.

However, several of those who were at the meeting have told the Echo that he lost the first vote, of the executive committee of the Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Party, and was forced to rely on members' votes in a second stage vote.

It is not known if any other candidate put themselves forward.

Tory party member Stephen Bath attended the meeting and admits he is no fan of Sir Chris, condemning what he described as the MP's 'antics' in voting down two widely-supported bills, on preventing Upskirting and FGM which caused national headlines last year.

He also condemned the MP's support for keeping Christchurch out of the new BCP Council, a campaign which ultimately failed as the council was absorbed into the unitary authority last spring.

"He lost the first vote at the meeting and then had to go to another vote," said Mr Bath, whose wife was a former Conservative council member.

He said that campaigning for Sir Chris, who has been Christchurch's MP since 1997 was 'out of the question' and knew of others who felt likewise.

"Regardless of the legality of him objecting to these FGM and Upskirting bills, the impression he gives is appalling," he said. "It appears he's trying to block bills to protect women which is not a popular thing. He's an old dinosaur."

Executive member Ray Nottage was not at the meeting because of a prior appointment and did not vote. However, he said: "I did not know what would be voted because it was a secret ballot. We had no idea before the meeting that this is what would happen."

Following the meeting the Conservative association put out a statement in which Sir Chris said: "I am honoured and privileged to be the candidate for the Christchurch Constituency."

Chairman of Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association, Lisle Smith, said "Sir Christopher has been campaigning for Christchurch and East Dorset, for over 22 years.

"His commitment to ensuring the Government delivers Brexit, his work as a Constituency MP with a reputation for holding bureaucrats to account, plus vast experience in helping to resolve issues for our residents, meant that he was readopted as the Candidate unopposed."

She said that 'much had been made' of the vote but: "It was the vote by the membership who want Sir Chris to be the candidate."