Senior Conservative moderate Damian Green has been rejected as the party’s candidate for the newly created Weald of Kent constituency.
Mr Green – chairman of the One Nation caucus who was effectively deputy prime minister under Theresa May – said he was “disappointed” not to have been selected.
“I am now thinking about what to do next and how I can best continue to work for the people of Ashford and support the government,” he said on Twitter.
The MP for Ashford since 1997 has been a leading figure among the centrist wing of the party, supporting of Tom Tugendhat’s leadership bid before backing Rishi Sunak.
His deselection fuelled speculation that Tory grassroots executives are taking “revenge” on MPs parliamentarians seen as responsible for Boris Johnson’s exit from No 10.
David Campbell Bannerman, chairman of the Conservative Democratic Organisation – a group angry at Mr Johnson’s which plans to give members a greater say – said it was a sign local groups want to “punish” MPs who opposed the ex-PM.
He tweeted: “There is now hard evidence MPs allegedly associated with bringing down Boris are being directly held to account and punished by members.”
Mr Bannerman added: “There are at least 60 MPs who might be getting a little nervous just now? Revenge of the membership?”
The organisation led by Brexiteers and Johnson loyalists has continue to take issue with Mr Sunak’s elevation to Number 10 without a membership vote.
But its vice-president Lord Greenhalgh denied Mr Green’s deselection was linked to “punishment” over Mr Johnson’s downfall.
The Tory peer tweeted: “This had nothing to do with Boris Johnson but more to do with a system of selection / deselection of MPs that needs fundamental reform … Damian Green has been a force for good for decades.”
Mr Green, acting chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, was rejected by the local executive as its looks to find a candidate for Weald of Kent, with the Ashford seat boundaries redrawn.
However, he could still put his name forward as the selection of an MP goes to the wider constituency membership.
It follows a similar fate for another opponent of Mr Johnson, Sally Ann-Hart, the Tory MP for Hastings and Rye who announced earlier this month that her local Tory association had voted not to reselect her to fight the seat again.
More than 20 Tory MPs have announced they are standing down at the next election – including Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid, Nadine Dorries and Dehenna Davison.