Who is Allegra Stratton and why did she quit over Downing Street Christmas Party video?

UK Government spokeswoman resigned and issued emotional apology to the public

Allegra Stratton became the first casualty of the Christmas party scandal engulfing the British Government when she stepped down from her top post and tearfully apologised for her actions.

Her resignation came less than 24 hours after a leaked video recorded in Downing Street showed her laughing and joking about an alleged lockdown-breaking festive gathering.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he as “furious” after seeing the clip and ordered an internal investigation to find out if the party took place last December while Tier 3 restrictions were in place, prohibiting social gatherings. But despite his public comments, MPs from across the political spectrum have warned that public trust in the government has waned and the Prime Minister is facing calls to resign.

Who is Allegra Stratton?

The former journalist was hired by the government in October 2020 to lead planned daily televised press briefings.

Political journalists have the opportunity to report on two government briefings each day, but they take place behind closed doors. However, the briefings are on the record, meaning that journalists are able to quote the spokesperson directly for articles.

Downing Street's plan was to have Ms Stratton represent the government to an audience of millions on a daily basis across the main broadcast channels and social media.

The Prime Minister scooped her for the top role to front briefings aimed to offer the public more "direct engagement" with the government.

His vision to set up conferences in a similar style seen at the White House was later scrapped and Ms Stratton was appointed spokeswoman for Cop26.

Six months earlier she had left the media to venture into public relations, taking a public relations role for Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

She was credited for bolstering the chancellor’s social media image and helping him launch the ‘Eat out to help out scheme’ to help restaurants lure back customers amid the Covid pandemic.

Prior to this, she had enjoyed a stellar media career, working as political correspondent at The Guardian before going on to work for the BBC and ITV broadcasters. At the BBC, she was Newsnight's political editor before she worked as national editor for ITV for five years and co-presented Peston on Sunday with Robert Peston.

Ms Stratton, 41, is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of The Spectator, a magazine which Boris Johnson used to edit.

She has strong connections to the Conservative establishment and Mr Sunak served as best man to her husband at her wedding in 2011.

Mr Forsyth works alongside the commissioning editor at the same magazine who is married to Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's former senior adviser.

Why did Allegra Stratton quit?

A leaked video showed Ms Stratton taking part in rehearsal press briefings with other government aides.

The clip obtained by ITV News showed Ms Stratton, adviser Ed Oldfield and other aides joking on December 22 about a supposedly “fictional” Downing Street party on “Friday”.

One aide is heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”

“Is cheese and wine all right? It was a business meeting,” Ms Stratton replied to laughter.

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

On Wednesday, just hours after the Prime Minister said he was “furious” over the video, Ms Stratton resigned in a tearful statement outside her north London home and said she will “regret those remarks for the rest of my days”.

What has the reaction been?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was upset when he saw the leaked footage and said he is “not quite sure” why Ms Stratton quit her role but added it might be because “she was very embarrassed by the video and what happened and the way things looked”.

Following her resignation, pressure is still piling on the government to provide answers about the Christmas party.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Boris Johnson is “not fit to be Prime Minister” and he is facing growing calls to step down over the affair.