Allegra Stratton has quit government, after she was caught out joking about an illegal Number 10 party last year.
A tearful Stratton, who used to work in Downing Street but was more recently working for Cop26 president Alok Sharma, said she would “regret the remarks for the rest of my days”.
ITV released a video yesterday that showed Stratton and other Number 10 staff joking about how they would cover up a Downing Street party they held last December when social events were banned under Covid rules.
Boris Johnson apologised for the video, but also said that there would be an inquiry by cabinet secretary Simon Case to determine whether a party did actually happen.
Stratton’s resignation appears to have blown a hole through the Prime Minister’s plans, with her resignation a tacit admission that an illicit party was indeed held at Downing Street during strict Covid restrictions.
Speaking outside her house today, Stratton 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 my profound apologies to all of you at home for them.
“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 Number 10.”
She added: “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.”
The Stratton video came after a week of Number 10 staff denying there had been a Christmas party during strict Covid restrictions last year in the face of press stories from The Mirror and The Times.
The video shows Stratton taking questions from other Number 10 staff in a mock press conference.
Stratton, a former ITV journalist, was lined up to take televised Number 10 press conferences, before the idea was scrapped.
She can be heard joking in the video about Number 10 staff having a “cheese and wine” night on 18 December last year when asked by another staff member about what she would say if asked about Downing Street’s “party”.
Stratton also implied during the mock press conference that she would pass off the party as a “business meeting”.
She also said the party was “not socially distanced”.
Speaking in the Commons today, Johnson said: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country of seeing Number 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures.
“I can understand how infuriating it must be to think the people who are setting the rules have not been following the rules. I was also furious to see that clip.
“I apologise unreservedly for the offence it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression it gives. I repeat, 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.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “489 people died on the day of the Downing Street party”.
“They knew there was a party, they knew it was against the rules, they knew they couldn’t’ admit it and they thought it was funny,” Starmer said.
“It’s obvious what happened.
“The British people put the health of others above themselves and followed rules. Isn’t the Prime Minister ashamed that his Downing Street couldn’t do the same?”