Stratton, Allegra

 

2020 Downing Street Christmas Party Controversy

In December 2021, Allegra Stratton was thrust into public consciousness when ITV news obtained a video of Stratton joking about an alleged Christmas party that was held in Downing Street during the December 2020 covid lockdown.

Stratton, who was at the time working as the Downing Street Press Secretary, is seen holding a mock news conference in which she responds to questions from colleagues.   Referring to the alleged Christmas gathering, Stratton is seen reacting to claims that cheese and wine was involved, commenting that, “This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced”.

At the time, the government’s coronavirus guidance required that people did not hold Christmas parties.  Meetings of two or mroe people indoors in London were not permissible unless they were ‘necessary’ for work.  In response to the controversy, Downing Street has maintained that no rules were broken.

A day after the revellations on ITV news, Stratton resigned from her role as COP26 spokesperson.  In a statement she said, “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.”

Allegra Stratton resigns from COP role

Role as COP26 Spokesperson

In April 2021, Allegra Stratton was appointed as the Prime Minister’s spokesperson for the COP26 conference on global climate change to be held in Glasgow in November in 2021.

Prior to taking on this position Stratton served as the Downing Press Secretary from October 2020 to April 2021.

Role as Downing Street Press Secretary

Allegra Stratton assumed her role as Downing Street Press Secretary on 8 October 2020, and was expected to become a household name as the face of Downing Street in a series of regular televised press conferences.

However despite the refurbishment of a broadcast studio in Number 9 Downing Street, the plans were aborted in April 2021, and Ms Stratton moved to her new post at COP26.

Before becoming the Downing Street Press Secretary, Stratton served as Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Director of Strategic Communications between April 2020 to October 2020. During that time Sunak was said to have become far slicker in front of the cameras, and this, alongside the successful promotion of the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, were largely credited to Stratton’s influence.

One person close to the government apparently claimed that the Prime Minister was slightly jealous of Sunak and ‘poached his top star’.

As the proposed face of daily government press briefings, Stratton was set to become the UK equivalent to CJ Cregg from The West Wing; with the televised press conference format clearly an import from America. In America, the White House Press Secretary is one of the most recognized figures in the land, albeit former President Donald Trump’s record of three Press Secretaries in four years, reveals the sometimes tough nature of the role.

Prior to Stratton’s appointment, the Downing Street Press Secretary salary was said to be ‘based on experience’. It has been suggested that this taxpayer funded civil servant role could pay £100,000 per year.

Career as a Journalist

Before working for the government, Stratton was a well-known political journalist.

She made her name in the media as a political reporter and as political correspondent for the Guardian, then becoming Political Editor of Newsnight from 2011 to 2015, and national Editor of ITV News from 2015 to 2018 – where she co-presented Peston on Sunday from 2016-2018.

In fact, Stratton was reportedly considered for the post of Political Editor of BBC News back in 2015, although she was ultimately beaten out by Laura Kuenssberg.

During her stint as Political editor for Newsnight, Stratton was caught in controversy following a segment she presented for the programme in 2012.

In her report on the then-government’s proposed cuts to welfare benefits, she interviewed a single-mother who had just moved out of her parents’ two-bedroom flat. Stratton suggested that the woman had made ‘a choice’ to receive housing benefits and live in her own home, rather than stay with her mother. Stratton left out the fact that the single-mother in question was, in fact, working.

The incident provoked headlines including: ‘How Newsnight humiliated single mother Shanene Thorpe’ and ‘How Newsnight demonised a single mother’. A subsequent petition seeking an apology from Stratton and the BBC amassed around 27,000 signatures.

Allegra Stratton – Personal Background

Early Life
In her youth, Stratton attended Latymer Upper School, an independent school in West London, before studying Archeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University. After graduating, Stratton went straight into journalism-becoming a producer for the BBC before transferring to the Guardian.

Allegra Stratton and Brexit
Stratton’s career has always been one of report rather than comment, and we therefore know little of her political views.

It was previously suggested in the Evening Standard newspaper by a friend that Stratton was not ideological and that she was ‘pro-Remain but got that the EU is not great’. Contradicting this, Stratton has told the Telegraph that despite voting for Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems in the past, she voted for Brexit and is a ‘Johnson Tory’.

Allegra Stratton‘s Husband
In 2011, Stratton married James Forsyth, the editor of Spectator – a job Boris Johnson once held. Allegra Stratton and her husband are close friends with Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Sunak was indeed best man at Stratton’s wedding, and the pairings are godparents to each other’s children.

Friendships
Well-connected, Stratton is reportedly good friends with Ed Miliband and was close with the late Labour MP Jo Cox.