AS fledgling political careers go, Ceredigion MP Ben Lake has had more to deal with than most.

Since winning the seat for Plaid Cymru in the 2017 General Election, he has been at the heart of one of the most contentious issues in the history of British politics – Brexit – while the past nine months have been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Who would have thought the Brexit story would be superseded by the pandemic in the last few months in terms of news coverage but I do not think anyone could have foreseen the Covid-19 crisis – it came from nowhere,” said Mr Lake.

In this week’s Parliamentary vote on Brexit, Mr Lake voted against the bill – though he conceded any deal would be better than no deal.

“A no-deal would have been disastrous but even with a deal, so many areas are under-prepared because we had no idea what to expect or what to actually prepare for,” he said.

“Regardless of the politics or whether you are a Bexiteer or Remainer, we are all going to be in the same storm and we are not ready. MPs from all parties have acknowledged this.”

And that has not been helped by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It has been a challenging year for everyone. Initially there were fewer MPs at Westminster. I stayed there for the Plaid Cymru group as I am young and don’t have any health issues. For six weeks, I did not come home at all,” said Mr Lake.

“The pandemic has become all-encompassing.

“Working in parliament has been strange. As backbenchers, we are there to offer constructive criticism and suggestions.

“But as the current situation has developed the reality is that the way Government is operating, the chance to influence decisions is very, very minute. Also so many other issues have had to be shelved.

“Having said that, it is easy for me from the back benches to be critical. The level of responsibility on ministers’ shoulders is massive and does not fall on me. The situation is ever-changing and I do not envy them at all.

“But what disappointed me most was the Dominic Cummings situation.

“I think, up until that point, people across the UK and certainly in Ceredigion had stuck to the rules remarkably well. The public reacted superbly to what they were asked to do

“In my opinion, Dominic Cummings broke the rules and he should have either resigned or been shown the door.

“It was all about the public adherence to and faith in the rules. You have to convey the feeling that we are all in this together. There is not one rule for one and one rule for others.

“That message was undermined and they should have done better with the Dominic Cummings affair.

“After that, people were enraged, and rightly so, and I sensed a more questioning attitude to following the rules and public health guidance.

“I don’t think we will ever know the full extent of the impact that had on public willingness to follow the guidelines. It could have all been avoided if he ‘had done the right thing’ which all sounds very old fashioned.”

Mr Lake accepts that people are weary of the restrictions imposed on their lives but hopes the roll-out of vaccines will help them through the next few difficult months.

“People think there is light at the end of the tunnel with the news about vaccines but then people are told that the new variant is more transmissible,” he said.

“That is so demoralising and I can fully understand people’s feelings. That light at the end of the tunnel is still there but it might take us longer to get there than we thought.

“The concerns I have over the UK Government are not the same with the Welsh Government.

“I think they have done an admirable job. Yes, it is very challenging and I can understand when people are disappointed in the sudden change in rules that disrupts lives.

“It’s pretty dismal not to see loved ones and friends and that’s a completely human reaction. But the decisions have been made with the best intentions and people for the most part have followed the rules and sacrificed a lot.

“And there is still a few more months where we are going to have to pull together.

“I have been asked why we can’t do our utmost to shield the most vulnerable and then allow others to operate more normally.

“There is something very attractive about that but I have been briefed by Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance and such a strategy is simply not feasible. Covid-19 can percolate through so many levels of defence no matter how careful people are.

“I would like to think we have learned a new level of respect for the NHS and people who work within it. We have built field hospitals but without the doctors, nurses and support staff they are of no use to us.

“One of the biggest disappointments is that in the latest spending review, that respect was not reflected with a pay freeze decision. That a purely sterile economic point of view and a real shame.

“We need to reignite public spending and the public sector has an important role in this as consumers having money to spare. Those in London disagreed.”

However Mr Lake hopes that the strength of local communities has been brought home to people by the past few months.

“As humans we are far more connected to each other than we perhaps realised in a digital world. I think the pandemic has reminded people of the importance of being part of a community,” he added.