VETERAN MP Sir Chris Chope has branded an emergency meeting of the Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association a “kangaroo court” amid claims there are moves to have him deselected.
Speaking to the A&T, Sir Chris said he did not know what was discussed at a gathering of the executive last Saturday afternoon.
Asked about the apparent bid to deselect him, he replied: “I do not comment on House of Commons tittle-tattle and gossip.”
The meeting was called after the 71-year-old MP, who has represented Christchurch since 1997, caused outrage by objecting on procedural grounds in the House of Commons to the second reading of a bill to boost protection for girls at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).
They were calls for the MP – who previously angered fellow politicians and the public by objecting to a bill on banning “upskirting” – to be removed from his seat.
Home secretary Sajid Javid said he was “very disappointed” in Sir Christopher’s objection to the FGM bill last week and pledged: “We will do all we can to protect girls at risk.”
Very disappointed by this. FGM is child abuse. I am determined to stamp out this despicable and medieval practice. We will do all we can protect girls at risk https://t.co/1ArrhD9tXG
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) February 8, 2019
The meeting of the Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association was chaired by Cllr Ray Bryan. A motion to have the MP’s seat put up for reselection, amid speculation over a June general election, was proposed by Cllr Lisle Smith and seconded by Cllr Ray Nottage.
As the sitting MP Sir Chris has the right to be considered for the seat. Supporters of the MP – whose majority of 25,171 is one of the largest majorities in the country – say any attempt to deselect him is doomed to failure.
But some local residents are hoping that the MP will go, judging by comments posted on a Christchurch Facebook page.
One simply said of Sir Chris: “Get the old git out.”
Another said: “Hope Sir Chris Chope does the decent thing and resigns his position, giving time for new candidates to be proposed.”
But this week a leaked reply from an official at the Conservatives’ national head office to a complaint about Sir Chris appeared to back him.
It read: “Sir Christopher was carrying out his duties and exercising his judgement when he voted and commented as he did.
“It is not the function of the code, or my role to tell Sir Christopher how to do his job, or to investigate him for doing so.”
This week Sir Chris sent the A&T a three-page statement he had sent to Cllr Bryan asking him to circulate it to all members of the local Conservative association.
In it he attempts to justify his actions over the FGM bill including the fact that he had objected to over 50 private members bills that day but that was the only one which had attracted attention.
Sir Chris said in his statement: “On Friday 23rd November there were 55 private members’ bills down for debate, the very last one of which was the Children Act 1989 (Amendment) (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill.
“All the undebated bills were objected to but the only objection which generated any publicity was that in relation to female genital mutilation.
“There was the predictable Twitter storm and a social media campaign designed to enable some bills to jump the queue ahead of others.
“If I had bowed to public pressure two bills which received second readings last Friday, the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Bill and the Rivers Authority, would have had their passage to the statute book jeopardised. Many other bills would also have been leapfrogged.”
Sir Chris also claimed there was a split even between anti-FGM campaigners as to whether the proposed changes to the law regarding it were “good, or bad.”
He said: “Reservations about the issue were expressed in an editorial in January in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and I have myself been contacted by a second generation Somali lady who started the campaign in the UK against FGM over 30 years ago.
“She is delighted that the practice of FGM within diaspora communities in the UK is much reduced as a result of cultural change.
“She is concerned however that if the power to make interim care orders against children thought to be at risk of FGM is given, it will result in much injustice and family trauma caused by the exercise of those powers in cases which are unwarranted.”
He said the BMJ article found that over half the girls referred to specialist children’s clinic with suspected FGM were found not to have had it carried out.
Sir Chris said that any members who would like to discuss matters further with him could see him at the Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association’s AGM on 9th March.