Allegra Stratton steps down from COP26 role over Covid-19 Christmas party video row

Image: Policy Exchange

Stratton was appointed to the post at the COP26 unit in April and has stood down today (8 December).

Her resignation comes after a video was leaked to ITV late on Tuesday (7 Devember), showing her joking about a Christmas party that reportedly took place at Downing Street last December, in breach of Covid-19-related lockdown rules that kept families across the UK apart over the festive period.

In the video, Stratton is asked whether she “recognises reports” around the party. She chuckles, says she “went home” and smirks.

She is then asked by prime ministerial advisor Ed Oldfield whether Johnson would condone having a Christmas party with the pandemic in mind, to which she chuckles and says she is not sure of the correct answer.

A Downing Street employee then quips that it “was not a party, it was cheese and wine”. Stratton agrees and calls the event “a business meeting”, quipping that any party was “fictional”.

ITV has stated that its source believes the footage was recorded on 22 December 2020 and relates to an event on 18 December 2020.

In a resignation video broadcast on the BBC this afternoon, Stratton is teary and states: “People have made immense sacrifices in the ongoing battle against Covid-19. I now fear that my comments in the leaked video… have become a distraction in that fight.

“I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days.”

She states she was wrong to make light of rules and acknowledges that most of the UK public were following them. 

Stratton was first appointed to the COP26 unit in spring after Johnson scrapped plans to have her host daily TV briefings on developments relating to Covid-19.

She was due to continue serving in the post in the coming months, as the UK’s COP presidency officially continues until COP27 gets underway in Egypt in November 2022.

Stratton had not shared any communications on her Twitter since 13 November, when the gavel came down on the Glasgow Climate Pact – the final COP26 agreement paper. She had been on the ground at the summit at the Scottish Events Campus and gave several media interviews during the event.

Prior to her work with the COP26 unit, Stratton was the director of strategic communications at the Treasury. She stepped into that role in 2020, following more than seven years as a political journalist.

Sarah George

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