Tory MP deselected for 'neglect of voters'

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Indy Politics

A frontbench Tory MP was deselected last night after facing bitter criticism from local party leaders about his alleged neglect of the constituency.

Nick Hawkins, who is a constitutional affairs spokesman, lost a vote of confidence among Tory members in Surrey Heath, his affluent constituency, by what is understood to be a substantial majority.

He became the first sitting Tory MP to be ousted by his local party for seven years. Mr Hawkins stormed out of the Conservative regional offices in Dorking when the result was declared, saying: "I will continue to remain a member of the shadow front bench."

Ballot papers had been sent out after his local party executive voted by 44 to 13 three weeks ago to remove him. He had survived an attempt to deselect him in 1999 after he left his wife and three children, and moved in with a Tory councillor, whom he married.

But dissent resurfaced amid claims that he was not a "team player" and ignored local party activists. There were complaints about the former barrister's so-called "Worzel Gummidge" appearance.

Richard Robinson, the Conservative Association president and the MP's most vociferous critic, said: "He cuts us out completely, fielding all calls from his offices in Westminster. It's a very awkward and difficult situation."

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, was forced to intervene last month when the MP faced accusations of using racist language about party members.

Mr Hawkins claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign and alleged there was a plot against him by a group of Freemasons.

His deselection leaves one of the country's safest Conservative seats up for grabs.