MEON Valley Conseravative candidate Sir George Hollingbery has announced today he will not contest the General Election.

The news has comes as a shock as he was only selected as the candidate in September.

In a statement this afternoon, he said: "The last nine years as the MP for such a wonderful constituency have been a tremendous privilege, but it's time to seek new challenges outside Westminster.

"I was readopted as the candidate back in September, but things have moved on a great deal since then. When the general election was called at such short notice, I sat down and talked things through with my family and friends and decided it was time to move on.

"My decision is entirely a personal one. I remain fully supportive of the Prime Minister and of his EU withdrawal deal. I firmly believe the referendum result must be honoured, but it is now for others in the next parliament to take this forward."

Sir George, 56, first got into politics in the late 1990s to fight plans for supermarket in his home town of Alresford. He served on the town council and Winchester City Council before becoming an MP in 2010.

He was Theresa May's parliamentary private secretary and an overseas trade minister.

He added: "It is only left for me to say thank you to all those who have helped and supported me through what has been 20 years in politics in Hampshire as a councillor, a parliamentary candidate and an MP.

"I am proud to have been in public service and to have been a minister, but I look forward to my next challenge - whatever that may be. I also wish the next MP for the Meon Valley all the best. They will be incredibly lucky to represent such a beautiful and vibrant place."

Lewis North, the Lib Dem candidate and a strong rival to the Conservatives, said this afternoon: "I am sorry to see Sir George go, he was respected locally and although I didn't share his politics, I wish him all the best in the future.

"More and more moderate Tories like Sir George are stepping down at this election - the Conservative Party isn't the party it once was.

"I was born and raised in Cheriton and will throw down the gauntlet to whoever the Tories choose to stand next. I am the clear choice to beat the Conservatives in the Meon Valley on December 12."

Sir George's majority in 2017 was 25,692 with Labour in second.