Christopher Chope – who infamously obstructed a bill to criminalise upskirting – is now facing campaigners who want him expelled from the party, after he opposed a law protecting girls from FGM.
There are some men who take great delight in doing and saying abhorrent things, simply because they know will get a reaction from more progressive folk. These men find it particularly thrilling to provoke a response from women – especially feminist women – and members of any other marginalised group. They enjoy nothing more than making the news, and are quick to dismiss anyone who criticises them as ‘virtue signallers’ or ‘snowflakes’.
Some of these men, like Piers Morgan, gain all their power from how much attention is paid to them, and are therefore generally best ignored. But others hold real power that has very little to do with how well-known they are, despite how much they might love being in the spotlight. One such man is Tory MP Christopher Chope – and now, he is facing calls to be expelled from his own party.
Chope, lest we forget, is the charming individual who gained notoriety last June when he obstructed a bill that would have made upskirting a criminal offence. Just one month later, he used the same technique to block a motion to hold a global women’s conference in the House of Commons.
And Chope made headlines once again on 8 February, when he blocked a law that would make it easier to protect girls from female genital mutilation (FGM). When the bill was presented to the Commons for its second reading, the Tory backbencher shouted “object!” – meaning that the bill will now have to presented for another second reading on 15 March.
Called the Children Act 1989 (Amendment – Female Genital Mutilation) Bill, the proposed law aims to simplify the process that allows family courts to make interim care orders about children deemed to be at risk of FGM. But thanks to Chope, the amendment is now significantly further away from being approved.
Now, anti-FGM campaigners are calling for Chope to be expelled from the Conservative – and even fellow Tories are turning against him.
Nimco Ali, an activist who founded the anti-FGM charity Daughters of Eve, wrote on Twitter: “The actions of this man have shaken me to my core. It hurts that he cares so little about the right of girls to be free from the torture that is FGM. He is a disgrace and needs to go.”
Speaking to The Observer, Ali said: “Senior cabinet ministers are saying what he’s done is completely unacceptable. His local Conservative association is fed up with him. He should have the whip removed and be deselected and if they [the Conservatives] have a vote of no confidence over him, then I’d be more than happy to come and speak.”
Ali also shared screenshots of a text message conversation she had with Chope, noting that he had previously refused to speak to her on the phone. Over text, Chope insisted that he believed the issue of FGM “should be fully debated” in Parliament.
This is a defence that Chope has used time and time again, notably when trying to explain why he blocked the upskirting bill. He claims to oppose private members’ bills not because he necessarily disagrees with their substance, but because he believes that legislation should not be passed without debate at second reading.
But Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP who co-drafted the FGM amendment, pointed out on Twitter that Chope “often [allows private members’] bills put forward by his friends to pass through unchallenged”. On 8 February, the same day he blocked the FGM amendment, Chope declined to object to two private members’ bills proposed by his friend, the Tory backbencher Peter Bone. Funny, that.
Goldsmith wasn’t the only Tory MP expressing anger at Chope’s actions. Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said that Chope should be forced from the party, tweeting: “If there’s any MP that needs deselecting/unseating then it must be #ChristopherChope!”
Another Tory MP, Heidi Allen, decried Chope’s objection as “utterly unacceptable behaviour”, and suggested that he didn’t deserve his place in the party. “They say the Conservative party is a broad church, but there’s no aisle wide enough to have both him and I in it.”
And on Sky News’ programme Sophy Ridge on Sunday, treasury secretary Liz Truss said: “When I see one of my colleagues opposing a measure that could have saved girls’ lives, could have saved girls from that horrendous experience, I am absolutely appalled by that.”
The process of deselecting or expelling an MP is a complicated one, and it remains to be seen whether the campaign to kick Chope out of the Conservative party will be successful.
But one thing’s for sure: people aren’t going to let him object to such bills without a fight. On 11 February, a photo was posted on Twitter showing Chope’s office door in the House of Commons. Looped through the handles were ribbons, bearing a natty print: dinosaurs.
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