Conservative activists have rejected leader David Cameron's latest attempt to modernise the party by trying to get more women and ethnic minorities elected to parliament.
Party members in the seat of Bromley and Chiselhurst snubbed an 'A-list' of preferred MPs-in-waiting drawn up by Conservative head office, instead selecting a local figure to represent them in the area's forthcoming by-election.
Bob Neill, leader of the Conservative group in the London Assembly, was last night picked for the fight to retain the seat following the death of the constituency's former MP, Eric Forth, last month.
Corporate fraud lawyer Mr Neill, 53, beat off challenges from two candidates on Mr Cameron's 'A-list' - health professional Julia Manning and Tory MEP Syed Kamall.
The selection of a by-election candidate in the seat represented the first time the centrally-approved pool of aspirant MPs had been presented to a local Conservative association.
Disgruntled Tory MPs had expressed concern over the list, objecting to the supposedly preferential treatment of celebrities and soap stars over hard-working local party activists.
But Mr Cameron defended the new list, stressing the importance of getting more women and ethic minority candidates selected in safe and winnable Tory seats.
Despite the decision of local party activists to reject candidates approved by the central party, Mr Cameron said Mr Neill would be an "outstanding candidate" in the Bromley and Chislehurst campaign.
"I look forward very much to campaigning with him in the by-election," he said.
Mr Neill, GLA member for Bexley and Bromley, told the BBC he believed his local credentials had had an influence in his selection.
"I suspect people may have thought that it was appropriate to have me because I have been the London Assembly member for Bromley for the last six years and actually represented the people of Bromley and Chislehurst for six years - and so I know the turf," he said.
The Conservatives will be defending the 13,000 majority won by the late Mr Forth at last year's general election during the June 29th by-election contest.