Allegra Stratton quits as advisor to PM after laughing about Downing Street party

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The former Press Secretary and COP26 spokeswoman said she had resigned after she was filmed joking with fellow staff about a bash last year

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Allegra Stratton in tears as she resigns as Boris Johnson’s adviser

Allegra Stratton today quit as an advisor to Boris Johnson after footage showed her laughing about a Downing Street party last year.

The £125,000-a-year aide gave a tearful statement outside her house after “furious” Boris Johnson apologised and announced an investigation but denied all responsibility himself.

The former Press Secretary – who later worked as COP26 spokeswoman – said she had “become a distraction in that fight” against the Covid pandemic.

Ms Stratton added: “My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey.

“That was never my intention.

“I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and I offer my profound apologies to all of you at home for them.”

She sidestepped saying whether there actually was a party or whether she was at it.

Struggling to speak through tears, Allegra Stratton said: “I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days”
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She added: “I understand the anger and frustration that people feel.

“To all of you who lost loved ones, who endured intolerable loneliness, and who struggled with your businesses, I am truly sorry.

“And this afternoon I am offering my resignation to the Prime Minister.”

For a week after the Mirror revealed the bash on December 18 last year – when London was in Tier 3 lockdown rules – ministers insisted no rules were broken.

No10 even tried to insinuate it didn’t happen – by claiming whatever took place wasn’t a party – and continued to dodge questions today.

But then a clip was leaked to ITV News of a private ‘mock’ press conference four days after the bash, which involved a Secret Santa, wine, a quiz and “40 or 50” people.

Allegra Stratton pictured in the leaked clip
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War-gaming questions if the event leaked, then-Press Secretary Allegra Stratton shrugged “what’s the answer?” before joking it was “was not socially distanced”.

Ms Stratton said in her statement today: “Working in government is an immense privilege.

“I tried to do right by you all, to behave with civility and decency and act to the high standards you rightly expect of No10.

“I will always be proud of what was achieved at COP26 in Glasgow and the progress that was made on coal, cars, cash and trees.

“This country and the PM’s leadership on climate change and on nature will make a lasting difference to the whole world. It has been an honour to play a part in that.”

The former Press Secretary – who later worked as COP26 spokeswoman – said she had “become a distraction in that fight”
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Jonathan Buckmaster)

The £125k-a-year aide has quit
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PA)

Ms Stratton, now 41, rose to prominence as a journalist, first as political correspondent for the Labour-supporting Guardian newspaper, before moving to BBC2’s Newsnight as the political editor.

Whilst at Newsnight she came under fire after appearing to accuse a working mother of two of choosing to claim benefits.

Leaving the BBC, she joined rivals ITV as a national news editor in 2015 and co-presented Peston on Sunday alongside Robert Peston.

Ms Stratton left journalism in April 2020, quitting to join Rishi Sunak’s treasury as communications director.

She was later moved to No10 where she was lined up to become the UK’s first ever White House-style Press Secretary leading regular briefings on TV.

But after £2.6m was spent on a TV studio, Ms Stratton’s televised meetings were delayed several times before they were eventually scrapped.

In April this year, she moved to a new role as spokesperson for the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow, after plans for the briefings were scrapped.

But in August 2021 she said that she didn’t “fancy” an electric car “quite yet”.

She said the battery charging times put her off, instead preferring her “third hand” diesel-thirsty VW Golf. She is one half of one of Westminster’s most powerful couples, as her husband James Forsyth is the political editor of the Spectator.

She wept but sidestepped saying whether there was a party or whether she was at it
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The recording was of a rehearsal on December 22 for planned daily TV media briefings, which Ms Stratton was supposed to be the face of until the Prime Minister scrapped them.

Ed Oldfield, adviser to the PM, said: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”

“I went home”, replies Ms Stratton, who appears to crease up laughing before telling colleagues “hold on”.

Following a long pause, Mr Oldfield goes on: “Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?”

Ms Stratton laughs and says “what’s the answer?” before her colleagues step in to help her compose an answer.

“It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”, offers one.

She adds: “Is cheese and wine all right? This is recorded… [serious] this fictional party was a business meeting – [grins] and it was not socially distanced.”

On the day of the party, Tier 3 rules banned gatherings of multiple households in London unless they were “permitted organised gatherings” such as a business meeting.

Less than 24 hours after the No10 party, Boris Johnson told England that with a “heavy heart”, Christmas would not be able to go ahead as planned.

On the day of the mock press conference, 629 people died in the UK with Covid on their death certificate.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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