Former MP chairs hustings of European candidates on behalf of MAG.

COLOURFUL former MP Lembit Öpik rolled into Barnstaple on Thursday before hosting a hustings to challenge European candidates on motorcycling rights.

The ex-Liberal Democrat MP and television celebrity now works for the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and was in town before heading to Bridge Motorcycles in Exeter to chair an event featuring five South West prospective MEP candidates.

The hustings and visit was organised by local MAG representatives Doug and Tracey Smith from Barnstaple, together with South West political officer Alan Langmaid.

The packed meeting was focussed on the impact of European policies and parties on British motorcyclists.

Riders were able to challenge the Conservative, Green, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP candidates to explain what they’d do for riders if elected.

“In the UK, more than five million voters are also fully qualified motorcyclists,” said Tracey, who is the South West rep for MAG.

“Any wise candidate – and political party for that matter – will be eager to engage with us.”

Lembit, who lost his seat in the 2010 general election but has appeared on numerous TV shows including Have I Got News for You? and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! said the ‘motorcycle vote’ was big enough to ‘make or break’ a candidate’s chance of election on May 22.

“We expect politicians to take an informed and positive attitude to riders. That’s exactly what we achieved at the meeting,” he said.

“If one word sums up riders it is ‘liberty’. 31 MPs are now MAG members, and there are 17,000 members across the country – more than some political parties.”

He was appointed director of communications and public affairs for MAG last autumn. He said: “They had a reputation then of being rebels and outsiders, like some sort of two-wheeled militia, but they’re really about riders’ rights and they’re very gentle people.

“When MAG riders get together, the biggest danger to the public is boredom because we start talking about double overhead camshafts!”

The next MAG bike night takes place at Barnstaple Square tomorrow (Thursday).