Dan Watkins insists he hasn't "found much kickback" from his party's unsuccessful Mayor of London bid, as the Tooting by-election candidate speaks to IBTimes UK on the campaign trail near Earlsfield railway station. The City Hall vote saw Tory hopeful Zac Goldsmith lose out to Labour's Sadiq Khan, who became the capital's first Muslim Mayor.

The election wasn't without controversy, with Goldsmith and the Conservatives accused of "dog whistle" politics, an allegation Goldsmith repeatedly denied.

Now Watkins, a local businessman, has the opportunity to lead the Tory fight-back in London and turn Khan's vacated Tooting seat blue.

"I've met Conservatives who gave Khan their vote last month, they knew him well because he was our MP for the last 11 years, but they are coming back to support me because they see me as a community champion, who has a strong track-record and knows how to improve the area," he adds.

Despite the momentum tipping towards Labour ahead of the 16 June vote, Watkins knows the constituency well. He was picked two years out from the 2015 general election to run for the South London seat and lost by just around 2,800 votes to Khan.

"I've built a big following of people who are going to support me because they know I'm going to do a good job," Watkins declares.

The Conservative will be up against Labour's Rosena Allin-Khan, a fellow 39-year-old who works as an A&E doctor at the local St George's Hospital. Watkins is campaigning on a six-point plan, including to push the government to bring Crossrail 2 to Tooting Broadway and promote the building of more affordable homes in the area, in a bid to beat her.

But with the Tories almost breaking out into civil war over the EU referendum, where would the Remain supporter put himself on the Conservative political spectrum? "I really like the expression: One-Nation Tory, where we govern for the people of a community. This community is so diverse, there are very wealthy people and there are people who a really struggling to get by and we also have the different nationalities represented from around the world," Watkins says.

Dan Watkins
Dan Watkins, the Tory candidate for TootingConservatives

"I was a big supporter of bringing in the National Living Wage and now we are going to see David Cameron bring in the Life Chances Strategy, [the prime minister's plan to fight disadvantage and extend opportunity]. Those are the things that I'm passionate about."

He adds: "Everything in life needs to be modernised and reformed because the world moves so quickly and I think the Conservative Party is no different." As for catching the so-called "political bug", Watkins reveals he first joined the party in 2010.

"I've always wanted to put something back into the community. I was state-school educated and I always felt like I got a good education and I should put something back in. To start with actually, setting up the business and creating jobs and tax revenues for our NHS and teachers was one way of doing it," the Tory hopeful says.

"But I've been working in business now for almost 20 years and I had that civic side. Essentially, I saw the way the country was going in the 2010 general election, David Cameron was our leader, and I felt quite inspired by the way he was taking the Conservative Party, the way he was leading the debate in the country and what we needed to do to sort out our economy. That was quite an inspirational thing for me."