Geater: goes public in the Evening Star ahead of visit
Ipswich Evening Star political editor Paul Geater had spin doctors delving into his past when he planned a visit to the new Government Office for the East of England (Go-East).
Geater thought his trip to the new regional government headquarters was a reasonably innocuous fact-finding visit. So he was surprised to find the precautions being taken by civil servants, as revealed in an apparently confidential e-mail which was leaked to him.
Addressed from ministerial administrator Tom Purser to Go-East managers, it said: “I am in the process of researching Paul Geater with a view to finding out what issues he is likely to raise while on his visit so that a ‘defensive’ briefing can be collated. However, it would be very helpful if team leaders could contribute any of the following: Any issues they are aware of that Paul Geater has raised in the past relating to the GO’s work. Any potentially controversial issues which Paul Geater and the wider press are unaware of that team leaders think should be avoided. Any good news stories relating to Suffolk that we could offer him as an exclusive.”
Geater told Press Gazette: “The very idea that I’m being researched by some ministerial administrator is really just like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. “And as I was asked by the press officer arranging my visit what kind of things I would be interested in, it hardly seems necessary to start sifting through my earlier work to find out what I’m interested in. “I must confess, I’d love to know just what are the controversial issues that I and the rest of the press are unaware of.”
To save government researchers some work, Geater said: “I’ve been covering politics for the Star for 12 years now – and we’re currently leading the calls for council tax to be capped. I’m certainly going to bring that up with my hosts.
“I’m also planning to raise the issue of creeping regionalisation in everyday life – but then they know that because I told them when the meeting was first arranged last month.
“I don’t know how deep this research goes. Do they need to know even more about me? I’m 6ft 5in tall and weigh three stones more than I should! I can’t see that it’s relevant – but I’m a season ticket-holder at Portman Road and I’ll be travelling to Cambridge by train because the GO-East office is near the station.”
Caroline Bowdler, regional director of the Government Office for the East region, said: “This is the first time Government Office for the East of England has opened its doors to a media visit in this way and is part of out commitment towards creating a greater understanding of our role within the region.
“We apologise if our over enthusiasm has been misinterpreted on this occasion, and look forward very much to meeting Mr Geater.”
By Dominic Ponsford