DORSET MP Richard Drax has come under fire after he suggested the recent promotion of women to the Conservative cabinet was ‘because they are women and a quota needs to be filled’.

In a post on his website last Friday, the South Dorset MP said newly-promoted female ministers were ‘out of their depth’ and had been promoted out of ‘tokenism’, dubbing the reshuffle the ‘the night of the petticoats’.

The term was a reference to Harold Macmillan’s night of the long knives, when the then-Prime Minister sacked seven of his ministers, reportedly as a way of boosting support amongst voters.

In the website post, Mr Drax said: "Tokenism has burst upon us like a thunderstorm. I have no problem with women getting top jobs. But they, like their male counterparts, must get there on merit and not just because they are women and a quota needs to be filled by 2015.

"Experience counts, too. The learning curve is steep and my intake is still learning the ropes. An MP's life is busy enough, but a minister's even more so.

"Perhaps it would be wiser to tackle the shallow end first, before venturing out of your depth."

Nine women from the 2010 intake of MPs were promoted during the reshuffle last week, including the employment minister Esther McVey, the environment secretary Liz Truss and Nicky Morgan, education secretary.

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for Social Inclusion, Francis Drake, said: “It’s a load of rubbish, he’s talking out of his hat.”

“I believe in a level playing field as men and women are equal. I don’t see how he could say what he has. You wouldn’t get offered that position by the government if you didn’t have the experience.”

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for West Dorset, Ros Kayes, said: “Richard’s attitude to women is very well known and rather outdated. I would have hoped he at least studied the professional backgrounds of these women before he commented on their capability.”

An article in the Telegraph also slammed the MP, quoting ‘a newly promoted female minister who said that Mr Drax's comments sounded like "sour grapes". "At the end of the day people have to accept the reshuffle," she said.

South Dorset Labour Parliamentary candidate, Simon Bowkett said: “To question an MP on their ability or inexperience is one thing, but Mr Drax has reserved all his criticism only for his female colleagues.

“Richard Drax’s controversial comments – like those he made last year about the No More Page 3 campaign – have again been the subject of national press coverage. Many of us are trying hard to present and promote Dorset as a modern, inclusive place to live and do business, and we could do without an MP whose comments regularly bring embarrassment, and frankly belong to another era.”

South Dorset Green parliamentary candidate Jane Burnet said: “Is Mr Drax suggesting that his leader has chosen unwisely? Either he is displaying what appear to be sexist views, or is concerned about the ability of the new government, which is worrying to voters."

She added: "Given Mr Drax appears not to have made any comment about the culture secretary Sajid Javid, who has been promoted equally as quickly and became an MP at the same time as these women, we might conclude that our elected MP has a less than acceptable view about women.”