UKIP's Diane James has dropped out of her bid to become North West Hampshire's next MP in May.

The South East England MEP had been selected by the party as their North West Hampshire candidate to contest the seat in the May General Election in December last year.

However, the 55-year-old, who is also a councillor on Waverley Borough Council, has dropped out of the race due to "personal reasons".

A spokesman for the UKIP party said: "Diane James is standing down as a PPC in North West Hampshire for purely personal reasons."

When The Gazette approached Mrs James, she confirmed that she has stepped down as the candidate for the seat and had nothing else to add.

The shock announcement comes just hours after she made a speech at UKIP's party conference which is being held in Margate, Kent.

When chosen as the candidate in December, Mrs James said that she liked a "challenge", adding: "I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like a challenge. But it is winnable and I believe that in my heart.

“This is a seat that the Conservatives have taken for granted and they were thinking they wouldn’t have to defend it.

“But we are going to put up a very, very good campaign with a great team.”

It is not known who will be selected by the party to replace her.

The North West Hampshire seat is currently occupied by Conservative MP, Sir George Young. However, the 73-year-old announced that he was to step down at the May General Election in December 2013.

Conservative candidate Kit Malthouse will go up against Labour's Andrew Adams, Liberal Democrats contender Alex Paynton and Green Party hopeful Dan Hill in the race to win the seat.