The demise of Gill Cardy’s IFA Centre generated a modicum of comment in the media, including a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece by Money Marketing columnist Nic Cicutti.
Nic is a gentleman with whom I have often sparred but I like to think we probably agree about more than we disagree. One interest we certainly share is two-wheeled transport, Nic with his Lamb-retta and me with my Harley.
To his credit, Nic supports the Lambretta club, which in turn supports The Motorcycle Action Group – MAG. As a biker, I have been a political activist for 32 years via MAG and its offshoot, the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations which I helped found. These organisations aim to influence social attitudes and political decision making for the benefit of motorcyclists and motorcycling.
As far back at 1988 bikers realised that most of the restrictive, uninformed and unnecessary legislation would come from the EU and by 1990 we had a small office in Brussels staffed by a full-time lobbyist.
The MAG in the UK started life in 1973 and by the late 1980s we had full and part-time activists banging away every day at the politicians and civil servants. We have some great achievements to our name but we have never had more than a few per cent of the biker community as members.
Pretty much the same is true of Apfa, which has also made great inroads despite the flak it gets. Like the MAG, though, Apfa gets relatively little material support from the community it serves. Whenever I sit in an Apfa council meeting, I am struck by the fact that Apfa faces essentially the same problems that MAG faces.
Average incomes around the table are significantly greater than those to be found in a MAG national committee meeting but otherwise Apfa could be the MAG in suits.
The strange fact though is that the MAG enjoys more support from the motorcycling community than Apfa gets from advisers.
This is somewhat ironic as few MAG members are dependent on motorcycling to make a living, whereas in Apfa we are defending those who without exception earn their living through financial services. Despite this obvious fact, most advisers refuse to contribute. Why? Too many are just too mean, greedy and selfish to put their hands in their pockets. I know that my stating of that undeniable fact will generate a storm of abuse from those who say they refuse to join Apfa because it did so-and-so but you are kidding nobody. You know and I know that if you just do not want to pay, you will always find some excuse.
It is no different in the biker community, where some will always find a reason not to join the MAG. If they were honest about it, their true motive would be the same – sheer tightfistedness.
The MAG membership costs about as much as a tank of gas for an average bike. Apfa costs less than a set of tyres for the average adviser’s car.
Some I know will take exception to being compared with bikers. It is still true, to a certain extent, to say that we do not have the greatest public image. I have had 30-odd years’ worth of getting used to the down-the-nose look from those who consider bikers the thick and unwashed.
But those who do join the MAG are far ahead of the rest of the population in one respect at least _ they know politics is far too important to be left to the politicians and freedom isn’t free. Think on this if you are not an Apfa member yet. It’s your living. How much do you value it?
Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions