Allegra Stratton QUITS over Number 10 Christmas party video: Tearful ...

Allegra Stratton QUITS over Number 10 Christmas party video: Tearful ...
Allegra Stratton QUITS over Number 10 Christmas party video: Tearful ...
How the No 10 party is alleged to have taken place when millions of Britons were forced into near-lockdown

November 13 - Dominic Cummings alleges that the PM held a gathering at his grace-and-favour flat on November 13 last year, the day he was ousted from Downing Street.

November 27 - Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a 'senior aide'. '40 or 50 people' were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings' protégé.

December 2 - London enters Tier 2 after second national lockdown banning social mixing indoors between households

December 10 - Gavin Williamson hosts Department for Education party for 'up to 24 people'

December 16 - London enters Tier 3 restrictions banning all mixing of households except in parks

December 18 – Party for No10 staff is allegedly held inside Downing Street for 'dozens' of staff

December 19 - Boris Johnson holds dramatic press conference putting London into Tier 4 and cancelling Christmas

December 20 – London officially enters Tier 4 restrictions at midnight

December 22 - Allegra Stratton jokes about Downing Street party during practice press conference which is recorded on video

January 6 – England enters third national lockdown

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Tearful Allegra Stratton tonight dramatically resigned as a government aide in the wake of bombshell video showing her giggling about an 'illegal' Christmas party in No10.

The former spokeswoman for the PM announced she had quit her £125,000 a year role offering a 'profound apology' for appearing to 'make light' of Covid rules. 

In emotional comments to journalists near her London home, Ms Stratton said: 'My remarks seemed to make light of 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.' 

In the video, Ms Stratton suggested she had not personally attended the party - quipping that she 'went home' instead.  

The move came hours after Boris Johnson mounted a desperate effort to put a lid on the chaos threatening to derail the response to the Omicron variant. But the government seems paralysed by inability to disentangle the video scandal from the looming Covid crisis.

In a press conference this evening Mr Johnson praised Ms Stratton, who he called an 'outstanding spokesman' and a 'fine colleague'. He added that she 'did an extraordinary job' and he feels 'very sorry to lose her'. 

SAGE has warned ministers that Omicron hospital admissions could breach 1,000 a day in England by the end of the year without tougher restrictions to stem the spread of the super-mutant Covid variant. 

The powerful Covid O Cabinet subcommittee has been meeting to sign off on 'Plan B' curbs, although the prospect of the proposals being finalised by tonight seems to be receding.  

Mr Johnson opened a raucous PMQs by saying sorry for the footage of Ms Stratton and other staff joking about the gathering which happened on December 18 last year, during lockdown.

He said the government's top civil servant Simon Case - who is not believed to have attended the party - would be looking into the situation. 

Mr Johnson said he was 'sickened' and 'disciplinary action' would be taken against any staff found to have breached the regulations, but insisted he had been 'repeatedly' assured the rules had been followed. 

The premier appealed for the public to focus on the threat from the mutant strain - with Plan B measures expected to be confirmed as early as this afternoon. But Keir Starmer shot back that Mr Johnson had lost the 'moral authority' to impose restrictions.  

Tory MPs also hammered the PM by branding the Covid switch a 'diversionary tactic' from the No10 party row, while Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross warned he will have to resign if he knew about the gathering when he issued denials.

Meanwhile, former chief aide Dominic Cummings has waded in by alleging that there was a party in Mr Johnson's grace-and-favour flat on November 13 last year, the day he was ousted from Downing Street.

Mr Case will also look at claimed former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hosted a bash during the festive season, but significantly he will not consider any other events - meaning nothing the PM personally attended is in scope. 

In her statement tonight, a weeping Ms Stratton said: 'The British people have made immense sacrifices in the battle against COVID-19.

'I now fear that my comments in the leaked video on 20 of December last year have now become a distraction in that fight.'

Ms Stratton, who has been the PM's spokesman for COP26 since the idea of her doing daily televised briefings was ditched, went on: '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 expect of No10.

'I will always be proud of what was achieved at COP26 in Glasgow and the progress made on coal, cars, cash and trees.

'This country and the PMs leadership on climate change and nature will make a lasting difference to the whole world.

'It has been an honour to play a part in that. I understand the anger and frustration that people feel.

'To all of you who lost loved ones, who endured intolerable loneliness, and who struggled with your businesses, I am truly sorry. This afternoon I am offering my resignation to the Prime Minister.'

On another tumultuous day for the government and country:

The core Covid O Cabinet sub-committee is being presented with a series of options papers for tightening restrictions against the Omicron variant; A SAGE meeting yesterday is reported to have concluded there is a danger hospital admissions could top 1,000 a day by the end of the year without action; A snap poll by Savanta ComRes has found that 54 per cent of the public think Mr Johnson should resign over the Downing Street Christmas party debacle; The top civil servant at the Department for Education has admitted she could be disciplined over attending a drinks event last Christmas. 

A tearful Allegra Stratton announced she had quit offering a 'profound apology' for giving the impression that she was 'making light' of Covid rules

Ms Stratton - who quipped on the video that she had not attended the Christmas party - wept as she read her resignation statement tonight

Ms Stratton - who quipped on the video that she had not attended the Christmas party - wept as she read her resignation statement tonight

Boris Johnson

Keir Starmer

Boris Johnson (left) appealed for the public to focus on the threat from the Omicron strain - with Plan B measures expected to be confirmed as early as this afternoon. But Keir Starmer (right) shot back that Mr Johnson had lost the 'moral authority' to impose restrictions.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the PM's stance was not 'remotely defensible'

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the PM's stance was not 'remotely defensible'

Former chief aide Dominic Cummings has waded in by alleging that there was a party in Mr Johnson's grace-and-favour flat on November 13 last year, the day he was ousted from Downing Street

Former chief aide Dominic Cummings has waded in by alleging that there was a party in Mr Johnson's grace-and-favour flat on November 13 last year, the day he was ousted from Downing Street

Dominic Cummings claims there were MORE Downing Street parties 

Dominic Cummings today alleged there were more illegal parties at No 10 that should be investigated including an allegation one was held in the Prime Minister's own flat on the day he left Downing Street during the second national lockdown after losing a power struggle with Carrie Johnson.

Mr Cummings believes Boris Johnson could be forced from office over the No 10 Christmas party scandal and declared 'regime change is coming' as Tories pointed the finger at the rogue advisor and his supporters for the leak of a bombshell video.

It came as the Prime Minister apologised 'unreservedly' for the offence caused by the footage of his then-spokeswoman Allegra Stratton at a mock press conference.

But he insisted that he had been repeatedly assured that 'there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken'. Mr Johnson said he had asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case 'to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible - and it goes without saying that if those rules were broken then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved'.

Following the announcement, the PM's former chief adviser tweeted: 'Will the CABSEC also be asked to investigate the *flat* party on Fri 13 Nov, the other flat parties, & the flat's 'bubble' policy...?'. The bubble reference is believed to be about the decision to allow Carrie Johnson's best friend Nimco Ali at Number 10 over the festive period 'to help support and look after' the Johnsons' son, Wilfred. 

Minutes later the PM was asked in the Commons about claims of a Downing St party in his flat after Mr Cummings left No 10. He replied. 'No, but I'm sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed at all time.' 

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During a press conference this evening, in the same media room Ms Stratton was filmed laughing about a Christmas Party, Mr Johnson said: 'I know today Allegra Stratton has resigned and I wanted to pay tribute to her because she has been, in spite of what everyone has seen and again I make no excused for the frivolity with which the subject was handled in that rehearsal, there’s no excuse. I can totally understand how infuriating it was. 

'Allegra has been a fine colleague, achieved a great deal and was a particularly effective spokesman for Cop 26. She helped marshal and rally the world around the agreements for cop 26. It’s been a sad day for her as an infuriating even for everyone around the country.

'I think Allegra has been an outstanding spokesperson for the government. She did an extraordinary job and I am very sorry to lose her. I take responsibility for everything that happens in this government.' 

Kicking off the clashes in the House earlier, Mr Johnson said: 'I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing No 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures, and I can understand how infuriating it must be to think that people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules because I was also furious to see that clip.

'I apologise unreservedly for the offence that it has caused up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives.

'But I repeat that 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.

'I have asked the cabinet secretary to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible - and it goes without saying that if those rules were broken then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved.' 

Mr Johnson said No10 would hand over any relevant evidence to the police if they ask for it.

But the Labour Leader said: 'An internal investigation into what happened – the situation is as clear as day. I thought last week was bad enough.

'Surely the Prime Minister hasn't now going to start pretending that the first he knew about this was last night? Surely we have all watched the video of the Prime Minister's staff including his personal spokesperson.

'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.

'It is obvious was happened. Ant and Dec are ahead of the Prime Minister on this. The Prime Minister has been caught red-handed. Why doesn't he end the investigation right now by just admitting it?'

Mr Johnson replied: 'Because I have been repeatedly assured that no rules were broken. I understand public anxiety about this… but there is a risk of doing a grave injustice to people who have frankly obeyed the rules.

'That is why the Cabinet Secretary will be conducting an investigation, and that is why there will be requisite disciplinary action if necessary.'

In one brutal attack, Sir Keir contrasted Mr Johnson's leadership with that of the Queen.

'Her Majesty the Queen sat alone when she marked the passing of the man she'd been married to for 73 years. Leadership, sacrifice – that's what gives leaders the moral authority to lead,' the Labour leader said.

'Does the Prime Minister think he has the moral authority to lead and to ask the British people to stick to the rules?'

Mr Johnson accused Sir Keir of trying to 'muddy the waters, to confuse the public and to cause needless confusion about the guidance' during the pandemic. 

Conservative MPs have been turning on the PM, with demands for him to provide an 'explanation' and even warnings that misleading parliament on what happened will be a 'resigning matter'. 

One government source told MailOnline that the situation was an 'absolute joke', adding: 'A friend said to me ''you look like a bunch of c***s''. It was hard to argue.' 

Another MP said of Mr Johnson's leadership: 'I'm tired of it. He has to go. Clean sweep. It's unsustainable'. A third said: 'It confirms my suspicion of the sheer arrogance and hypocrisy of those orchestrating lockdown measures.' 

Baroness Warsi, a former Cabinet minister turned critic, said 'every minister, parliamentarian and staffer' at the alleged party 'must resign now'. And former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said his stance was not 'remotely defensible'.

In full: Allegra Stratton's tearful resignation statement   

The British people have made immense sacrifices in the battle against COVID-19.

I now fear that my comments in the leaked video on 20 of December last year have now become a distraction in that fight.

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 now for my profound apologies to all of you at home.

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 expect of No10.

I will always be proud of what was achieved at COP26 in Glasgow and the progress made on coal, cars, cash and trees.

This country and the PMs leadership on climate change and nature will make a lasting difference to the whole world.

It has been an honour to play a part in that.

I understand the anger and frustration that people feel.

To all of you who lost loved ones, who endured intolerable loneliness, and who struggled with your businesses, I am truly sorry.

This afternoon I am offering my resignation to the Prime Minister.

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Mr Johnson had hoped to grab the news agenda this week with a slew of crime measures, after weeks of torrid sleaze headlines. 

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid pulled out out of interviews this morning following the emergence of the footage showing the PM's former press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing about the lockdown-busting gathering last year.

As bereaved families branded the revelations a 'bullet to the chest', Scotland Yard is set to probe the exchanges which took place during a rehearsal for a media briefing. 

Attorney General Suella Braverman was seen going into the building this morning, although it is not clear whether her visit was related. Mr Javid has also entered, ignoring questions about why he ducked interviews.

Extraordinarily, there are signs that the government is preparing to announce a move to 'Plan B' Covid restrictions to combat the Omicron strain - including blanket orders to work from home and more mask-wearing. 

Such a shift had not been expected before the end of this week, and Mr Johnson immediately faced accusations he is deploying the 'dead cat' tactic - making a big newsworthy announcement in order to distract attention from another crisis. 

Tory MP William Wragg said in the House: 'Covid passes will not increase uptake of the vaccine but will create a segregated society.

'Is my Right Honourable Friend the PM aware that very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic?'

Mr Johnson replied: 'No decisions will be taken without consulting the Cabinet.'

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he had not yet been notified that there will be a ministerial statement on Covid later. 'It must be here first,' Sir Lindsay warned. 

In a move that could bounce No10 into activating its winter 'Plan B', SAGE has said it is 'highly likely' Omicron will make up the majority of British infections within 'a few weeks' and put 'unsustainable pressure' on the NHS.

Leaked minutes from SAGE's emergency meeting today showed that the group also expect the highly-evolved strain to trigger several thousand admissions per day at a peak in January if it is allowed to spread unchecked. 

The 'Covid O' Cabinet committee has met for crunch talks this afternoon and Mr Johnson is expected to sign off on plans for a blanket order to work from home where possible, more mask-wearing, vaccine passports and stricter isolation rules for close contacts of infected people either today or tomorrow. 

That is despite increasingly hostility on the premier's own parliamentary benches, with many MPs sceptical about a creeep back towards lockdown.  

There is growing pressure on the Government to tighten restrictions after the total number of British Omicron cases rose to 568 today, with the highly evolved variant now in every country in the UK and almost every region of England. 

Experts warn thousands of cases are flying under the radar because not all samples are analysed for variants and Omicron is estimated to be doubling every two or three days — much faster than when Delta exploded on the scene.

There are currently 757 daily hospital admissions across the UK and 680 in England. SAGE members had previously suggested that 1,200 daily admissions would be the trigger point for more restrictions with Delta.

Not a single one of the UK's confirmed Omicron cases has been hospitalised with the virus but it takes several weeks to fall seriously unwell and there are early indications in South Africa that it might cause milder illness than past variants.

But even if the new strain is milder, experts warn that if it can infect significantly more people than Delta, it will cause bigger surges in hospital admissions than its predecessor. 

In the leaked SAGE minutes, seen by the BBC, the group said: 'With the speed of growth seen, decision makers will need to consider response measures urgently to reduce transmission if the aim is to reduce the likelihood of unsustainable pressure on the NHS.'

The scientists insisted that tightening restrictions will give the UK precious time to delay the wave and get more boosters into arms. They said they expect jabs to hold up against severe disease and death.

Earlier, Professor Neil Ferguson, a key SAGE member whose modelling prompted the initial lockdown last spring, today admitted that another full-blown shutdown could be on the cards to tackle Omicron.

He said light measures like WFH 'wouldn't stop it but it could slow it down' and extend the doubling time to five or six days. 'That doesn't seem like a lot, but it actually is potentially a lot in terms of allowing us to characterise this virus better and boost population immunity,' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.   

BBC Breakfast took the extraordinary step of empty-chairing Mr Javid this morning as vaccines minister Maggie Throup also pulled out of her planned round of regional television interviews. On ITV's Good Morning Britain, host Susanna Reid swiped that the government was 'gaslighting' by pretending there is not any need to answer questions.  

Education department chief admits she could be disciplined over drinks bash last Christman

A Whitehall party instigated by former education secretary Gavin Williamson and held in the lead-up to Christmas last year will form part of the inquiry into a gathering in Number 10, a top civil servant has said.

Susan Acland-Hood, permanent secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), admitted that she attended the gathering, where there were drinks and food, on December 10 last year in the department's canteen.

She told MPs that if any DfE staff, including herself, were found to have broken the rules then they would face disciplinary action.

Her comments came after the DfE admitted it held a social gathering of staff ahead of Christmas in contravention to coronavirus social-distancing rules. 

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The footage of Ms Stratton was filmed on December 22 last year – four days after the alleged 'boozy' party and when London was under strict Tier 3 coronavirus curbs. The revelation follows a week of tortured denials from No 10 that there was a 'party' - even though dozens of staff allegedly exchanged 'secret Santa' gifts and drank past midnight at an event said to have included party games.

In the Commons, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford demanded Mr Johnson's resignation, saying he 'can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these islands'.

Mr Blackford said: 'Trust and leadership is a matter of life and death. Downing Street wilfully broke the rules and mocked the sacrifices we have all made, shattering the public trust. The Prime Minister is responsible for losing the trust of the people. He can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these islands.

'The Prime Minister has a duty, the only right and moral choice left to him: it is for his resignation. When can we expect it?'

But Mr Johnson replied: 'The party opposite and indeed the other party opposite are going to continue to play politics. I am going to get on with the job.'

Scottish Tory leader Mr Ross told STV News Mr Johnson had 'serious questions to answer on this issue'.

He said he trusted the PM, but added: 'When he made statements last week they

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