MOVES are underway to deselect veteran former Southampton MP Sir Christopher Chope from his current seat in Christchurch.

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

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 backers of the MP, who represented the Southampton Itchen constituency from 1983 to 1992, say it is the start of an attempt to deselect him.

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.

Sir Christopher was not available for comment on Sunday morning.