We must honour Gordon Aikman's legacy by continuing his MND campaign
Ian Murray MP pays tribute to Motor Neurone Disease (MND) campaigner, Gordon Aikman in an Adjournment debate today.
When Gordon Aikman passed away aged just 31, he left a legacy, both personal and professional, that would have taken others a lifetime to bequeath. Motor Neurone Disease (MND), the debilitating illness with which Gordon was diagnosed at 29, did not just rob Gordon of his life. It robbed him of his youth.
Prior to his diagnosis, Gordon was, in many ways, the epitome of youth. Extremely fit, abounding with energy and enthusiasm and both mentally and physically agile, he stood out as a young Labour researcher of huge promise. It was no surprise to me or anyone else when he was appointed Director of Research at Better Together, a role that would have tested the mettle of a far more seasoned operative.
Gordon was a very talented man, but his success as a political aide and director was as much due to personality as political nous or innate intelligence (both of which he had in abundance). He did not just understand politics, he understood people, and knew how to treat them. Politics can be a tawdry game, and very unforgiving when things are not going according to plan. It gets to the best of us. But Gordon was always impeccably polite and utterly professional. He never seemed unduly ruffled, or expressed anger or irritation.
It was that personality which drove Gordon’s stupendous MND campaign: Gordon’s Fightback. If courage is grace under pressure – the ability to remain calm, dignified and, crucially, true to oneself when confronted with the worst that life can throw at you – then Gordon was the most courageous man I have known. While I cannot begin to imagine what he went through, I know that the face Gordon showed to the world following his diagnosis was his true face. It was the face of a man of great bravery, compassion and resolve. It was the face of a man who achieved an immense amount of good in a very short space of time, including guaranteeing rights to communication aids for sufferers and doubling the number of MND nurses in Scotland, to help MND patients live and die with dignity. By the time he died, Gordon had transformed many lives.
Despite Gordon’s exceptional endeavours, his work is not complete, a point I will make when I pay tribute to him in a special debate in the House of Commons on Monday. If we are to improve our understanding and treatment of MND and, eventually, discover a cure, government investment in scientific research and development must vastly increase. Gordon never did anything by halves, and I know he would not feel his job was done until MND is beaten. There is a long way to go yet, but if we follow Gordon’s example, we can get there. That would be a fitting way to honour his legacy.
Ian Murray is the Labour Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South