The row over the Downing Street 'party' has claimed its first victim. On Wednesday Allegra Stratton announced that she was resigning from government. Her decision followed the leaked footage of a practice press briefing in which Stratton — then spokeswoman for the Prime Minister — appeared to joke about a lockdown breaching No. 10 party four days after is alleged to have taken place.
Addressing reporters outside her home, Stratton — who most recently has been working on the COP26 summit — said she was deeply sorry for her comments:
“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. 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 have offered my resignation to Prime Minister.
With Johnson announcing a formal investigation into the party (and the police potentially investigating), there could be more staff exiting the building. As Isabel noted on Coffee House, Johnson's approach of saying he was angry to see the video and had been assured there had been no wrongdoing could be described as throwing his staff under a bus. If the investigation concludes that staff members did behave in breach of the rules they could face the axe.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 8, 2021
"I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days".In an emotional speech, Allegra Stratton offers her "profound apologies" to those affected by her comments after footage emerged of her joking about a Downing Street Christmas party last year.https://t.co/auPWyVtLyp pic.twitter.com/0rqQjgXqKQ
Will it be enough to calm the parliamentary party? While Stratton has been heavily criticised for her comments, few MPs believe that she is the main issue when it comes to so-called partygate, particularly given she said she didn't attend any such event. Instead, what the video clip did was cast doubt on a whole host of denials from both the Prime Minister and the Downing Street operation. No. 10 have had to change its story on the alleged party several times and doing so has raised questions about whether No. 10 can be trusted and on the Prime Minister's grip in Downing Street.
Johnson's insistence that he knew nothing of an event that members of his team appear to have joked about suggests either that he has little awareness of what goes on in his building or that he isn't being honest.
Fresh questions are now being asked about other parties alleged to have taken place — including in the Downing Street flat. Meanwhile, rumours that Johnson will announce new Covid measures later today have also been met with criticism from within his party — with MPs asking whether it is a ploy to distract from the party row. This means that despite Stratton's departure, the issue is not about to go away.