Christchurch Tory group ‘depleted’ after resignations of key senior members

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Christchurch MP Sir Christopher Chope and his wife Christo

THE Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association has remained tight-lipped in the wake of a string of resignations by some its most senior figures.

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Members have failed to respond to requests by the A&T for comment on a letter written by Christo Chope, the wife of veteran MP Sir Chris, who was forced to take up the role of chair.

Sent to association members, her letter revealed that in early December a “series of resignations” – including its chair, vice-chair and treasurer – had “depleted” the association.

They had been elected only two months earlier at its 2020 AGM, Mrs Chope added in the letter, seen by the A&T.

“There are currently vacancies for the positions of chair, deputy chair (political and campaigns), vice-chair (media and communications), vice chair (special projects) and treasurer,” it said.

“We also need a volunteer to take on the role of secretary to the executive council, which is the body responsible for the running of our association.”

The letter said it was intended that the positions would be filled by election at a meeting of the executive council on 16th January.

The A&T asked other local senior Tories, both inside and outside of the association, but they also remained silent.

The Christchurch and East Dorset Conservative Association had started a Twitter account in October and posted two tweets confirming its 2020 AGM result.

One quoted the then newly appointed chair, Gill Coleman, as saying: “The new team has its focus firmly on the future, engaging with the membership and supporting our excellent MP Sir Chris Chope and Conservative councillors in BCP and Dorset councils.”

However, it has since also remained silent.

The association has endured a turbulent two years or so with a series of internal disputes spilling out publicly, mainly over the disbandment of Christchurch Borough Council to merge into BCP Council.

Sir Chris was a vociferous public opponent of that move – which caused an internal split among senior Tories on the former Christchurch Borough Council that was so bitter some broke away to form their own political group.

The Christchurch Independents successfully went up against their former Tory colleagues, winning a haul of seats at the first BCP Council election.

In March 2019 there were further hints of internal dissatisfaction with Sir Chris when he faced opposition from the association’s executive committee to be chosen to contest the Christchurch seat at the 2019 general election – which he again comfortably retained.

During the subsequent election campaign the party’s deputy chair, Rhys Gadsby, resigned, slamming the backbench MP for his principle of blocking popular private members’ bills in parliament.

Sir Chris hit back, suggesting internal critics wanted his job and had not forgiven him for opposing the creation of BCP Council.

Mrs Chope’s letter also included that it was a “top priority” to set up branch organisation to cover constituency areas such as St Leonards or St Ives.

Noting the upcoming by-election for the BCP Council Commons ward, following the death of popular Independent member Cllr Colin Bungay, she called on people interested in being the Conservative candidate to come forward.

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