In Conversation with MP Ben Lake - Q&A at the Students' Union

MP Ben Lake (photograph taken by Aberystwyth Student Union)

On Thursday 30th November, I attended the Q&A with MP Ben Lake at the Aberystwyth Student Union. Ben Lake is the current MP for Ceredigion and has held his seat since 2017. He is the youngest serving MP in Wales, having been elected at 28 years old. Lake’s party, Plaid Cymru, currently holds 3 seats in the House of Commons and 12 seats in the Cardiff Senedd. Plaid Cymru is a centre-left to left-wing party committed to securing Welsh Independence from the United Kingdom. They aim to develop a bilingual society, and pride themselves on advocating for social justice and environmental issues.  

The Q&A had many attendees, comprising of both students and local residents. Many questions were asked, and Lake responded both in English and in Welsh. This made it accommodating for both Welsh and English speakers in the crowd. Amongst the variety of questions asked, three of them really stood out to me.  

Firstly, I asked Lake how he and his party can work to raise awareness for LGBTQ+ issues in Wales. He responded by saying: ‘An important thing as a party, we’ve always been championing those who’ve been persecuted. Whilst having serious advantages and disadvantages in developments in the UK, we shouldn’t forget what happened in the eighties. It wasn’t a great place at all. I don’t need to remind you of the policies regarding education in the eighties and how they were quite accordingly backwards’.  

Lake went on to suggest that although we have come a long way in becoming a more welcoming society, more can still be done. Lake also stated that Plaid Cymru must be ‘the party for everybody’. He also said: ‘Now, in the current political climate, it is time to stand up against more reactionary backwards views by certain parties.’ He suggested that the Welsh curriculum should reflect positive views when it comes to relationships, gender, and sexual orientation. He hopes that this will be true for future generations of school children in Wales.  

An issue that we students all know too well is the difficulty we face in getting around the UK from Aberystwyth. There is only one line going to Birmingham which takes around two-and-a-half hours. If we want to go to Cardiff, we must go all the way to Shrewsbury, down through England and then back into Wales. This is a nuisance. However, one person asked Lake: ‘Given the UK is trying to go greener and revitalise poorer areas, would you support reopening certain train lines that were closed in the fifties and sixties such as the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen Line?’  

Lake responded: ‘In my mind, you need to have proper transport infrastructure, and in rural areas, we’ve seen cutbacks to buses and what that has meant to rural populations’. Regarding the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen line, Lake also pointed out that ‘97%’ of the old track has not been built over, which means it is possible to restart the line. This would cost ‘£600 million to reopen’, but Lake pointed out: ‘It’s not a lot of money if we consider how much we’ve spent on other infrastructure.’ Lake went on to say that Ceredigion has an aging population, with a declining population of under 24-year-olds staying in the county. Lake believes that there are many great jobs in the area. However, the fact that we do not have a good transport infrastructure means that less people are willing to move to Ceredigion to set up their lives and businesses here. Lake believes that with a better rail infrastructure, this could be a different story.  

Lastly, a topic that has been prevalent in the media amidst the recent resignation of Suella Braverman and the reinstatement of David Cameron into the cabinet. Someone asked: ‘What is the council doing to put pressure on the UK government, to stop the Rwanda immigration scheme that violates international law?’  

Lake replied: ‘Myself and a lot of MPs in Wales are opposing the plan and putting pressure on the government.’ He also said that the UK had ‘rightly’ signed up to the Human Rights conventions when Winston Churchill was ‘one of the biggest proponents of it’ and that the current government seem to forget this. Regarding the plan, Lake said, ‘It is ill thought at best, and at worst quite scary’. Lake said that Plaid Cymru are putting pressure on the government and continued by saying: ‘We are aided thankfully by the Supreme Court and the House of Lords in this regard.’ He also said that the House of Lords has taken a lighter view in terms of Human rights and international relations when compared to the House of Commons.  

No matter your political leaning, or if you have no leaning at all, I can say that this was an enjoyable Q&A to attend. I believe that more people should speak to their local MPs to see what they are doing regarding the issues that impact them.