BORIS Johnson’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton has quit as an adviser to the Prime Minister.
She made the announcement outside her home in north London where she offered her “profound apologies” after footage emerged of her appearing to joke about a lockdown Christmas party in Downing Street.
The former ITV and Guardian journalist made a tearful statement on Wednesday, where she told reporters: “My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey.
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“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.”
Stratton, who had been working as Johnson’s spokeswoman for the Cop26 climate summit, said she understood people’s “anger and frustration”.
Allegra Stratton gives a tearful statement outside her home.
“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.”
Johnson has ordered an investigation into claims Downing Street staff broke lockdown rules by holding a Christmas party last year and told MPs he was “furious” about footage apparently showing aides joking about it.
In leaked footage obtained by ITV News on Monday, Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, appeared to joke in a mock press conference about a Downing Street party durng lockdown last year.
READ MORE: Allegra Stratton resigns as Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on COP26
Oldfield can be heard asking Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”
Stratton replied “I went home”, before appearing to consider what the correct answer should be.
During the rehearsal, filmed as part of a subsequently-abandoned plan for Stratton to lead televised press briefings, one aide is heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”
“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.
Stratton then noted “this is recorded”, adding: “This fictional party was a business meeting… and it was not socially distanced.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed officers are reviewing the leaked video in relation to “alleged breaches” of coronavirus regulations.
Stratton entered Downing Street as a political adviser after a wealth of experience holding power to account as a journalist at ITV.
But it was that very broadcaster that ultimately led to her demise as an aide in Johnson’s Government when it obtained a video of Stratton making light of Covid restrictions days after an alleged rule-breaching Christmas party in No 10.
Her switch from journalism to Government spinner was a controversial one, with many of her colleagues in Westminster predicting it could all end badly.
Having graduated from Cambridge University, she began her media career as a producer for the BBC before moving into print journalism and working as a political correspondent at The Guardian.
Stratton joined BBC Newsnight as political editor in 2011 before becoming national editor at ITV News in 2015 and also co-presented ITV’s Peston On Sunday.
In 2011, she married James Forsyth, the political editor of The Spectator, the conservative magazine which the Prime Minister used to edit.
Stratton left journalism in April last year to become the director of strategic communications for Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The Prime Minister was said to have been “impressed” with Stratton’s abilities while working at the Treasury and convinced her to become the public face of Downing Street as Johnson’s press secretary in televised press briefings.
Despite renovations to develop a White House-style briefing room in No 9 totalling £2.6 million, the Prime Minister scrapped the plans after internal wranglings in Downing Street.
In April, Stratton was moved to become the spokeswoman for Cop26 President Alok Sharma before she could front a single briefing and remained on the payroll as a special adviser earning around £125,000.
It was her ultimately doomed period training to become the No 10 press secretary, however, that prompted her resignation.
The devastating footage emerged after official denials to questions over whether Downing Street staff held a Christmas party in No 10 on December 18 when London was under Tier 3 restrictions explicitly banning work Christmas lunches and parties where they are “a primarily social activity”.