MP pays tribute to ‘inspirational’ motor neurone disease campaigner

Mr Aikman was a prominent figure in the Better Together campaign
Mr Aikman was a prominent figure in the Better Together campaign

Deputy Commons Speaker Eleanor Laing has been challenged to take the ice bucket challenge as MPs paid tribute to “inspirational” motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner Gordon Aikman.

Labour MP Ian Murray led the tributes to the 31-year-old, who died earlier this month.

Mr Aikman was 29 and working as the research director for the Better Together campaign when he was diagnosed with MND in 2014.

Mr Murray, who led an adjournment debate on Mr Aikman and MND, urged ministers to keep his legacy alive by boosting research funding into the condition.

The Edinburgh South MP also pressed Ms Laing to take part in a late rendition of the ice bucket challenge, which was so successful in raising funding and awareness of MND back in 2014.

Ms Laing said: “Never was there a better campaign to draw attention to something which needed attention drawn to it.

“For the avoidance of doubt, although I managed to avoid it myself, I did engineer other people taking part.”

In reply, Mr Murray said: “I’m delighted that you are able to make the connection between that campaign and, indeed, Gordon’s Fightback, and the significant amount of money it raised in 2014.

“I don’t think there was ever an end point to the bucket challenge.

“I think the way it went, Madame Deputy Speaker, is if you were indeed soaked you nominated other people, as you indeed have done so yourself.

“So if I can, with the floor and the grace of the House, nominate Madame Deputy Speaker to do the bucket challenge, I think the terminology is: you have seven days.”

With Mr Aikman’s husband Joe Pike looking on from the public gallery, Mr Murray praised Mr Aikman’s tireless campaigning.

He focused his efforts on combating the degenerative disease and formed Gordon’s Fightback, successfully lobbying the First Minister to double the number of MND nurses through the NHS.

He also raised more than £500,000 for research to help find a cure for the terminal condition and was instrumental in the successful campaign to change the law so that people at risk of losing their voice as a result of a medical condition can access voice equipment on the NHS.

“Gordon was an inspiration,” said Mr Murray.

“Dedicated, intelligent, meticulous and simply a lovely person to be around.

“He touched the lives of everyone who had the pleasure of getting to know him, and spend time with him.”

Mr Murray added: “The inspiration that many people have drawn from Gordon’s Fightback, the way he dealt with the disease, the dignity that he dealt with the disease and the fact that he spent his remaining time, when most of us would have been lesser human beings and wallowed in self-pity … he fought to raise over £500,000 for the things that he believed in.”

MPs heard that Mr Aikman’s nickname was “14%” during his time working as a researcher for the Scottish Labour Party, given he was responsible for 14% of all FOI requests to the Scottish government.

Mr Murray said: “I want to change his nickname from ‘14%’ to ‘100%’.

“We can do that by doubling the research budget for MND from £5 million to £10 million a year, a 100% increase.

“Gordon did so much in such a short space of time, and now it is our time to find a way to honour that legacy.”

Responding, science minister Jo Johnson called Mr Aikman’s campaign “courageous and incredible”.

Mr Johnson added that the Government was making significant progress in tackling the problem, with the National Institute for Health Research investing £53 million into neurological conditions last year.

“Gordon Aikman’s legacy will live on for a long time due to his courage and determination to raise the profile of MND and make a real difference to the lives of MND sufferers,” said Mr Johnson.