Sir Robert Buckland has faced criticism from his Labour opponent at the next general election and female councillors over his membership of a London club which does not admit women.

It was revealed recently by the Guardian newspaper that the Conservative South Swindon MP was a member of the Garrick Club, a well-known club in London that does not admit women as members.

Also revealed as members were King Charles, several cabinet members and Simon Case, the country’s top civil servant, but he resigned his membership shortly after the list was published.

Now Heidi Alexander, the Labour candidate for South Swindon, and six borough councillors and five parish councillors from the constituency have signed an open letter calling for Sir Robert to resign.

It says: “We note you have said you’re a member because it’s a place to go to socialise, relax and discuss ‘nice things.”

The letter quotes Labour MP and former cabinet member Harriet Harman who said: “All those in public life should be committed to [the objective of women’s equality]. These clubs prop up structures that restrict women’s access to power. It’s not good enough to hope that women will be able to join in future. If you can’t admit them, you should not be a member.”

The letter continues: “With a general election on the horizon, we’re sure women in Swindon would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about some of the ‘not so nice’ challenges they are currently facing. Not least the mortgage increase and pension devaluation caused by your choice for Prime Minister, Liz Truss.

“We appreciate the rarified atmosphere of The Garrick may hold its attractions for you, but we don’t believe in 2024 and MPs should belong to clubs that bar women.”

Mr Buckland said, in response: “Labour have to resort to desperate stunts like this in order to cover the fact that they have absolutely no plan for our country and nothing serious to say.

Earlier Mr Buckland, who was Justice Secretary and Welsh Secretary under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, had told the Guardian the Garrick was a place to go “to socialise, to relax and to talk about nice things”, and not a place where work was discussed.

“Private members’ clubs should not be places where undue influence is obtained. They certainly should not be places where matters of public administration or important issues that affect national life should be determined.”