Tories pin their hopes on Londoner Gyimah
A dramatic behind-closed-doors meeting saw hundreds of Tory voters elect an "unknown" to potentially represent East Surrey.
More than 300 East Surrey Conservative party members spent more than seven hours at Oxted School in Bluehouse Lane, on Saturday, listening to six candidates battle to replace Peter Ainsworth.
Winner: East Surrey Conservative's prospective parliamentary candidate Sam Gyimah. photo by Phil Lee.
Huge cheers emanated from the private meeting after Sam Gyimah, 33, beat favourite and sole local candidate, Woldingham resident Sally Marks, in the final round of voting.
He is expected to replace Mr Ainsworth in the sixth safest Conservative seat in the country.
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Mr Ainsworth is planning to stand down at the general election and Mr Gyimah, a former chairman of the Oxford Union, is therefore extremely likely to be voted in as the MP for the constituency following the general election this May.
Mr Gyimah could become the first black MP in East Surrey's history.
When the Mirror went to Mr Gyimah a couple of minutes after his victory was announced, he said: "Bear with me for a couple of minutes, I just want to call my mother and tell her the good news."
After the list of candidates was announced a fortnight ago, Mr Gyimah had just 10 days to meet constituents and get an idea of the area. He said: "It has been an extremely busy period.
"I am aware of the angry feeling among voters regarding the process involved, the little notice they were given and the sense of injustice.
"It probably did put me at a slight disadvantage as someone from outside East Surrey, but the members gave me a fair hearing on the day and listened carefully to what I had to say.
"From the short time I have been here I know the green belt is hugely important to people here, and after visiting the shops and pubs I knew there is a big problem with potholes."
Mr Gyimah lives in Hampstead, London, but he confirmed he will be moving to the constituency – "within cycling distance of Oxted".
He added: "I got into politics as it gives me the opportunity to make a difference. I am going to fight for East Surrey and do my best to represent the people and their issues."
A little more than 24 hours later Mr Gyimah was settling into his new role after starting work on Monday morning.
Outgoing East Surrey MP Peter Ainsworth said he will be doing all he can to help Mr Gyimah fulfil his role on the road from Tory prospective candidate to full MP come the general election in May.
He said: "I warmly congratulate Sam Gyimah on his selection to fight the next general election. The hard work starts now.
"I very much look forward to working with Sam in the weeks ahead and wish him every success on polling day."