A BITTER political power struggle among Reading Conservatives has come to a head with the de-selection of one of its councillors.

Reading borough councillor, Jamie Chowdhary, has been de-selected from Peppard ward for next year's election, with senior sources blaming a faction inside the Reading East party who want to see Cllr Richard Willis replace Cllr Andrew Cumpsty as group leader.

The Chronicle understands Cllr Cumpsty and his backers are considering jumping ship to join the Reading West party and that Wokingham borough councillor Paul Swaddle and his wife Alison, who chairs the Reading East party, are among Cllr Willis' supporters.

When asked to confirm his intentions and whether his leadership was under threat, Cllr Cumpsty said: "I'm very much a member of the Conservative Party and leader of the Conservative group and my thoughts are very much with Jamie.

"I'm deeply disappointed by the news of his de-selection. He has contributed hugely during his time at the council. I have not been involved with this at all, in fact I was told not to be involved. Those people who have been involved should be entirely ashamed of themselves."

Cllr Chowdhary, who is in his fourth year as a councillor, said he felt humiliated but will remain loyal to the party and serve out his term.

He added: "I feel I am just in the wrong place at the wrong time because I am up for selection. My heart is broken.

"Conservative Central headquarters is aware of the situation and are taking this rather seriously, with a possible investigation."

Cllr Willis tonight refused to comment but Reading East deputy chairman Andrew Waters issued a statement which read: "Reading East Conservatives are in the process of selecting their candidates for the Reading Borough Council Local Elections to be held in May 2012.

"All candidates are interviewed by either the Association Selection Committee or local ward branch committee, nominated candidate selection is then subject to ratification later this year by the Reading East Conservative Executive Council.

"Until such time as a nominated candidate has had their selection ratified by the Executive Council, it is not the policy of the party to make public the details of its intended candidates."