The much-vaunted first-ever UK government White House-style press secretary has resigned after one year in the role and without ever having hosted a press conference, hours after footage of her discussing the hotly-contested alleged cheese and wine night held at the prime minister’s official residence during lockdown emerged.
Allegra Stratton, the senior journalist-turned government spokesman, resigned on Wednesday evening amid a growing Westminster scandal revolving around a purported party that may have happened last year while London was otherwise in lockdown. The government denies the party happened but said if it had, it would have been illegal.
Footage emerged on Wednesday morning of a rehearsal press conference recorded at Downing Street with Stratton in December 2020 practicing answering questions — in this case being played by Downing Street aides to add realism in the practice — and being asked about a recent party for Downing Street staff.
Stratton joked about the event, saying in vaguely non-committal terms while laughing with colleagues: “What’s the answer? … Is cheese and wine alright? It was a business meeting.”
In an apparent warning to her colleagues joking with each other on a potentially sensitive topic, Stratton then said: “This is being recorded” before saying “this fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced”, before moving business on.
Whether the comments haven’t gone far to clear up whether a party really happened or not — as is widely claimed — given she called it fictional and a business meeting, the jovial attitude, and apparent disregard for the government’s own rules, have now, nearly a year on, become a growing scandal in Westminster and prompted Stratton to resign her government job.
Boris Denies 2020 Lockdown-Breaking Christmas Party, Despite Video Leak of No 10 Staff Joking About It https://t.co/Eia79Re8Pb
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 8, 2021
Stratton is said to have made “profound” apologies for the remarks in a tearful statement outside her handsome Islington home, where she said her “leaked comments” had become a “distraction” in the “fight” against coronavirus. She said: “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 offer my profound apologies to all of you for them.
She continued: “I understand the anger and frustration that people feel. To all of you who lost loved ones, endured intolerable loneliness and struggled with your business – I am sorry and this afternoon I have offered my resignation to Prime Minister.”
It remains an open question whether Stratton’s prompt ousting will be enough to sate the Westminster media’s anger over the Christmas party scandal. If it emerges that members of parliament, government ministers, or senior civil servants attended the alleged festive gatherings — the BBC reports there are now three known Christmas parties that took place at Downing Street last year — more resignations could follow.
While Stratton was in-role as the government’s first-ever White House-style Press Secretary at the time — having moved over from communications at the Treasury under Rishi Sunak, where she had been for months after leaving Britain’s mainstream ITV news — she never actually hosted a real press conference. Once Downing Street got cold feet on the idea — Boris Johnson using the newly made press room himself through 2021 for press conferences without Stratton — she was shifted on to being a spokesman for the Government’s green environmental COP26 conference which took place in Glasgow last month.
It was a role that she was not to cover herself in glory for, with the most high-profile moment being her admission that she wasn’t interested in buying an electric car — as the government is now pushing ordinary people to do — and still drove an old diesel. Such hypocrisy and irony have proven common with high-profile backers of the Build Back Greener agenda, from the micro of individuals driving convenient and cost-effective cars out of choice to the macro of green-law imposing world leaders jetting to climate change summits on polluting private aircraft.