PM’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton tearfully quits over Xmas party video leak

8 December 2021, 15:48 | Updated: 8 December 2021, 16:59

By Sophie Barnett

Allegra Stratton has tearfully resigned as an adviser to Boris Johnson after footage emerged of her joking with senior aides about Downing Street's Christmas party.

In a statement outside her home on Wednesday, Ms Stratton said she will "regret" her remarks for the rest of her days, issuing an apology to those who have lost loved ones to the disease.

"My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey," Mr Johnson's COP26 adviser told journalists.

"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.

"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 the Prime Minister."

Read more: Downing St staff joke about Xmas party in leaked clip after ministers deny it took place

The footage, which was obtained by ITV News, showed the Prime Minister's then press secretary Ms Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, joking about a "fictional" Downing Street party in December 2020.

Ms Stratton is seen answering questions at a mock press conference on December 22 about a party the previous Friday - the date of the alleged Covid rule-breaking gathering which is said to have been attended by dozens of colleagues.

Read more: Met Police to examine leaked footage of No10 aides joking about Christmas party

Mr Oldfield can be heard asking Ms Stratton: "I've just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?"

Ms 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 Ms Stratton to lead televised press briefings, one aide is heard saying: "It wasn't a party, it was cheese and wine."

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"Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting," Ms Stratton replied, to laughter in the room.

Ms Stratton then noted "this is recorded", adding: "This fictional party was a business meeting ... and it was not socially distanced."

In response to ITV's report, a Downing Street spokesman said: "There was no Christmas party. Covid rules have been followed at all times."

Boris Johnson has since issued a grovelling apology for the video which he says "sickened" him.

He claims he was "furious" to see the clip - but has still denied a Christmas party took place.

Mr Johnson told MPs in the Commons: "I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.

"I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.

"But I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken, and that is what I have been repeatedly assured."

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He insisted "disciplinary action" would be taken against staff if needed, as he faced accusations of being caught "red-handed".

There will be an investigation by the Cabinet Secretary to establish all the facts and to report back to the Prime Minister as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has said it will examine the leaked footage.

The force added that it was not "our policy to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of Covid-19 regulations".

The PM and No 10 have repeatedly denied Covid restrictions were breached, however social mixing indoors was banned in London under Tier 3 restrictions at the time.

The police statement read: "It is our policy not to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations, however, the footage will form part of our considerations."