A "long overdue" first female MP would drag Croydon politics into the 21st century, a former minister has suggested.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said electing a woman to Parliament for the first time would be a "great moment" for the borough.

She was speaking after parking her controversial pink campaign bus, derided by many as "patronising", in New Addington on Wednesday on a visit briefly disrupted by fathers' rights campaigners.

The shadow minister for culture, media and sport spoke to an audience at Addington Community Centre to launch a nationwide tour in the eye-catching minibus, widely mocked on social media for reinforcing gender stereotypes.

She also used the visit to back Sarah Jones, Labour's candidate for Croydon Central in May's general election.

Mrs Harman said: "It would be a great moment, I think, if Sarah Jones could be the first woman elected from Croydon. Really in the 21st century it is long overdue.

"I think it is important women who are in politics show the women out there that there is a reason to vote."

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Protestors Archi Ssan, left, and Bobby Smith

During her visit, the MP joined women "around the kitchen table" to discuss which issues were important to them. But she denied suggestions the pink bus and her campaign to encourage women to vote were patronising. 

She said: "Talking at all the tables we have had a whole load of issues raised about the health service, about jobs, about council tax, about rents, about working in schools. Not one single woman here has mentioned the question of the colour.

"It is a bright, eye-catching colour but there important issues at stake in this election and really the discussion is deadly serious."

Two protesters scaled the roof of the community centre, unfurling a banner and shouting through a mega-phone in a bid to disrupt the MP's visit.

Archi Ssan and Bobby Smith, of the Fathers4Justice splinter group New Fathers 4 Justice, claimed Mrs Harman's campaign discriminated against men.

Mr Ssan, 53, who last year staged a week-long occupation of the Hyde Park Gate, said: "Fathers are being routinely denied access to their children. Harriet Harman should be campaigning for equality for all, not just women."