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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Senior Tory kicked out by party
Nick Hawkins
Mr Hawkins is the first Tory to be deselected since 1997
A Tory frontbencher has been deselected following a bust-up with his local party.

Nick Hawkins was voted out by a substantial majority of party members and will not run for his Surrey Heath constituency at the next election.

Local Conservatives had criticised the constitutional affairs spokesman for not being a "team player".

The row grew so acrimonious last month that Tory leader Michael Howard was forced to intervene.

A ballot of the party's 1,200 members was triggered when 44 local Tories voted against his automatic reselection earlier this year - 13 voted in favour.

Mr Hawkins faced a similar vote four years ago but managed to survive the bid to unseat going on to fight the 2001 election without a ballot of local members.

Howard's intervention

But at the constituency's annual general meeting in March a bid to get some of his supporters onto the association's executive failed.

The MP then faced accusations of "racism" after he reportedly wrote a letter complaining about a "large group of ethnic minority people many of whom apparently did not speak English" who were at the meeting.

The contents of the letter were later confirmed by Surrey Heath Conservative president Richard Robinson after it was sent on to Mr Howard.

Mr Hawkins said he was not a racist and his views had been misrepresented.

He wrote to his party leader apologising for any offence he might have caused and Mr Howard attempted to draw a line under the matter.

A Conservative Party spokesman confirmed the deselection on Thursday, saying the the decision was a matter "exclusively for members of the Surrey Heath constituency association".

The spokesman said Mr Hawkins had been a "tireless campaigner" for his constituents and had helped expose the government's failings in home affairs.

The Surrey Heath seat is regarded as one of the safest Tory constituencies in the country.

Mr Hawkins was first elected in 1992 for the marginal seat of Blackpool South but in 1997 decided switch to a safer option.

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