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January 15, 2007

Shots in the Night and the Cycling RDA: News from Devon

Posted by Jeremy Black

Two contrasting items of news from these western parts throw light on our changing society. First, there have been several reports to the police about semi-automatic gunfire at night in mid-Devon, for example near Posbury. One suggestion is that Eastern European migrant workers are using AK-47s to shoot deer. This certainly will make walking in the woods more hazardous. It remains to be seen whether the police are able to deal with the situation which underlines the ready accessibility of guns for those who do not mind breaking the law.

But, do not mind. The Regional Development Agency is considering taking up the Crediton to Exeter railway and replacing it by a cycle route. An RDA member assured me that this would provide opportunities for commuters and was uninterested in the freight capacity of the line. The major source of railway ballast in England is Meldrum Quarry, which is served by this line, but that does not offer the media opportunities of a new cycle line.

More seriously. The failings of RDSs, which have been highlighted by Tory spokesmen, underline a more general problem with British government, namely whether it is up to the job of confronting with multiple interests and a high-tempo of pressure. As Labour has been in office, issues, such as Foot and Mouth, and agencies, such as the Immigration Service, are lain at its door, but the Conservatives need to consider the problems that they may face in this regard.

Jeremy Black is Professor of History, University of Exeter.

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