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November 16, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:46am

Sunday Express editor celebrates £50m MND funding victory in father’s memory

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Sunday Express has won its campaign for the Government to fund the search for a cure for motor neurone disease after just four months.

Boris Johnson this weekend pledged £50m for scientific research as he “wholeheartedly” backed the Fund The Fight To Cure MND crusade in an op-ed for the paper.

Editor Mick Booker told Press Gazette the victory was especially personal to him as he lost his father to MND in 2018.

“I saw what he suffered and if this money can go anywhere to stopping anyone else similar and the families of those who’ve got it suffering then yeah, it certainly did focus my mind.”

He added: “It was in his memory and I think he’ll be up there smiling down that some positivity has come from what he went through.”

The campaign was first started by the Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Sunday Express began running its parallel campaign led by deputy news editor Jon Coates just over four months ago, with stories running every week for 18 weeks to keep momentum going – something Booker said can be difficult in a weekly.

But, he said: “I do think people in the corridors of power do read the Express and see the Express, and I think that does help too so anything that we could do to help them [the MND Association] we’ve done.

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“It has been relatively short and I’ve not won many campaigns with the newspaper that quickly, but this one’s given us the most satisfaction or given me personally the most satisfaction anyway.”

Express MND campaign

Sunday Express MND victory front page 14 November 2021

Former Scottish great Doddie Weir, who has been battling MND himself for four years, said he was “completely over the moon” by the £50m pledge. It came weeks after campaigners were disappointed that there was no sign of any funding in Rishi Sunak’s latest spending review.

Booker said newspapers do still have campaigning power and “have a huge effect”.

“They’re not being picked up in as many millions of copies every single day across the market, but people with power and influence do read the newspapers still and they know it’s a place where people go to get their news every day.

“The readers there are important and the readers are voters as well so obviously politically they’ve got to bear that in mind but yeah, newspapers still have a huge influence in this society and can do an awful lot and that’s what we want to keep doing.”

Asked what comes next, Booker said: “We’re always looking at good causes to back so watch this space.”

The Daily Express is currently running multiple campaigns but Booker said weekly newspapers have to be more discerning and pick and choose what they focus on as it can be more difficult to keep momentum going.

The Sunday Times, Observer, Daily Mail, Sun, Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Architects’ Journal are all nominated for Campaign of the Year in the upcoming British Journalism Awards. The Daily Express’s Time To End Cystic Fibrosis Drug Scandal won last year.

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