BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Michael Crick
« Previous | Main | Next »

Revolt over Surrey East Tory candidate 'secretly suppressed'

Michael Crick | 15:46 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

Have the Conservatives averted another local rumpus - this time in Surrey - over one of their Cameroon candidates?

I am hearing about a big revolt this week inside the Conservative association in Surrey East where they selected a candidate, Sam Gyimah, a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday evening the association held an emergency general meeting. The problem was an article which appeared recently in Private Eye making allegations about Mr Gyimah's businesses.

Two of his companies have gone bust, the magazine said, whilst another is badly in debt.

Local party members were furious that they weren't given this information at the time they selected Mr Gyimah, when he was presented to them as one of Britain's most successful young entrepreneurs.

But the Surrey East association was far from a happy ship to start with. Before they picked Mr Gyimah, who is black, as their candidate many local Tory activists were unhappy at the way they had been obliged to choose from a six-strong shortlist imposed on them by the party high command - a list which was notable (in conservative Surrey) for lacking any straight white men.

Some senior activists felt the shortlist was "too PC" and didn't adequately reflect the demographic make-up of the Surrey East constituency.

On Tuesday night, a Central Office official wielded the big stick with the Surrey East Conservatives, warning them that the local party would be disbanded if they tried to sack Mr Gyimah.

And local officers were told they would face strong disciplinary action if they spoke out about the crisis in public.

In particular, local and district councillors were warned they might lose the party whip if they breathed a word about the row to the media.

So the party decided they had better stick with Sam Gyimah.

In a statement about his business activities Mr Gyimah said: "Private Eye has inaccurately characterised my past business activity. I have been involved in two businesses as an entrepreneur. One company, Workology, was successfully restructured. The other company mentioned was Clearstone whose business difficulties began sometime after I relinquished management control.

"Sadly, the company had to sell off its assets and transfer staff and customers to a new company, at which point all of my links with the company were severed in full."

Whilst the situation at Clearstone was unfortunate, it happened after my involvement in running it. And, Workology is an example of successful, if not difficult, restructuring."


  • Comment number 1.

    Thank heavens nothing of note in any other political party or with their supporting organisations is transpiring at present. Or there would be, literally, no news.

  • Comment number 2.

    dirty deeds in Surrey? What? What would the East Surreys make of it? After all the sacrifices we made...pass the sick bag, Alice

  • Comment number 3.

    We have been accused by HQ of being racist, this is entirely untrue. The objection is first that a short list was foisted on us and secondly we were not told the truth. When MP's are in such low public esteem we should be told the truth by Central Office. There are other questions about this candidate what exactly is his marital status and although he rightly says he was born in UK where was he living before he came here to university. Threats from Central Office are not well received

  • Comment number 4.

    "gone bust " " badly in debt ". Now what does that remind me of ?

  • Comment number 5.

    Anyone with any experience of entrepreneurial start-up businesses will realise that it is far from unusual for them to fail or restructure - many of our most successful entrepreneurs have a string of liquidations behind them. The point is that Sam will have learnt a huge amount from his experience and will be all the better as an MP for it. He will understand what many of us small business proprietors are going through in this recession.

  • Comment number 6.

    Sam is a good decent bloke it will blow over. A far worse situation though in Stratford on Avon which was the last safe seat to select. They really did not know what they were getting and took it all at face value hook line and sinker - the missing archer millions connections, being struck off the candidates' list, embellished cvs, incorrect statements, the works - the YouGov CCHQ relationship - it was even suggested the competition was so weak on the short list that what with big donations to the party the seat had been bought and paid for but the members have had to get on with it. This one is far worse than just a failed business venture that happens to the best of us this one is about integrity, honesty, trust in politics etc.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm an East Surrey resident - and not your typical well off country old school Englishman that the mention of East Surrey conjures up for many folk....I'm a married man of very modest means with three kids, running a small business with my wife. I have voted for all three of the main political parties during my life but am not a member of any of them. At the last General Election I voted for Peter Ainsworth, the outgoing Conservative East Surrey MP (though voted LIb Dem in local elections).

    The local Conservative party selected Sam from a strong shortlist, after a hard fought contest, as the result of the presentation he gave to them, which was based on an apparently formidable track record as a successful entrepreneur.

    After selection, reports emerged that the successes Sam had claimed in business were nothing of the sort, and that instead he'd presided over a series of significant failures. Sam issued a statement claiming that the reports were inaccurate, however, since then a further in-depth article has appeared in Private Eye detailing the extent of the failures, and his involvement in the companies. I haven't seen any further response from Sam.

    Local party members feel deceived. Sam was chosen ahead of candidates that live and/or are closely associated with the constituency on the basis of a record that now looks like complete fantasy. And what else does he have to offer? Well, he was President of the Oxford Union, so is surely a skilled debater, which would serve him well in Parliament - and he worked as a banker at Goldman Sachs before trying to be an independent businessman. Apart from that he seems to be well presented and most people think he's charming. Is that enough to be the chosen candidate or to represent the people of East Surrey? I don't think so.

    Sam is not from East Surrey and as far as I know has not had any involvement with the area prior to his candidacy - he says that he is moving here but don't think he's here yet.

    East Surrey is one of the safest seats in the country so whoever is chosen as Conservative candidate is sure to be elected. All the same, the local Conservative members don't like being duped and I don't think any of the electors of this constituency will either. If Sam is the candidate at election day, you can expect the Conservative majority to be very significantly reduced.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.