Allegra Stratton: who is ex Boris Johnson aide in leaked Downing Street party video - and who is her husband?

Stratton is married to James Forsyth who is political editor of The Spectator - a magazine Boris Johnson previously edited

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an investigation into the claims that Downing Street staff broke lockdown rules in 2020 by hosting a Christmas party.

Johnson also apologised “unreservedly” for the offence caused by a leaked video, which showed his aides joking about the alleged Downing Street Christmas party in a mock press conference.

He added that he had been repeatedly told that “there was no party” and that “no Covid rules were broken”.

In the video, Allegra Stratton is seen talking about the alleged party, which she says “was not socially distanced”. Stratton has since resigned as the Prime Minister’s spokesperson following the leaked video.

But who exactly is Stratton? This is everything you need to know.

Who is Allegra Stratton?

Allegra Stratton is Boris Johnson’s former press-secretary and was previously a journalist.

Born 10 April 1980, Stratton grew up in Chiswick, in west London and is one of four children.

She attended Chiswick Community School and Latymer Upper School before going on to study at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where she read archaeology and anthropology.

COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton walks down Downing Street (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Stratton worked as a producer for the BBC before moving to the Guardian as a political reporter. While at the Guardian, Stratton presented the newspaper’s Politics Weekly podcast with fellow journalist Tom Clark.

In 2012, Stratton returned once again to the BBC as the political editor of Newsnight, taking over from Michael Crick who had left to be a political correspondent for Channel 4.

It was announced in November 2015 by the BBC that Stratton was leaving to be the national editor for ITV News. She made her debut appearance on ITV’s News at Ten in January of 2016.

She co-presented Peston on Sunday alongside Robert Peston until April 2018.

What did she say about the Downing Street Christmas party?

Most recently, Stratton has found herself at the heart of the Downing Street Christmas party scandal.

A recently leaked video showed her and Ed Oldfield joking about a “fictional” No 10 Christmas party. If the alleged party did occur, it would have been in breach of the lockdown rules at the time.

Stratton, alongside other aides, can be seen answering questions about the event at a mock press conference on 22 December regarding a party which had allegedly been held the previous Friday.

The party is said to have been attended by dozens of staff during a time when mixing indoors was banned in London under Tier 3 lockdown restrictions.

Oldfield can be heard asking Stratton: “I’ve just seen reports on Twitter that there was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night, do you recognise those reports?”

Stratton replies that she “went home”, before appearing to consider what the right answer should actually be.

Another aide can be heard saying: “It wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine.”

Stratton jokes that the party was actually “a business meeting” and that “it was not socially distanced”.

This isn’t the first time that footage of Stratton has caused controversy.

What was the Newsnight controversy?

In 2012, Stratton sparked outrage during an interview with east London mother Shanene Thorpe.

At the time, the Government line was that benefits should be cut due to unemployed people living on benefits as a “lifestyle choice”.

In the interview, Stratton grilled Thorpe, who received assistance for her housing costs, and framed her as a person who was unemployed and claiming benefits by choice - she failed to mention that Thorpe actually had a full time job.

At one point during the interview, Stratton said: “You’re on housing benefit, you get help from the state for your housing, don’t you think that you should have possibly lived at home, until the point at which you could support your own house?”

Thorpe replied by saying that living at home with her mum “wasn’t an option” because there wouldn’t be enough space for herself and her young daughter.

Stratton then says: “It doesn’t sound to me like your mother’s flat is a bad place, so it’s a choice you’re making and it’s a choice that comes with a price tag attached.”

She goes on to add: “We both know people that are living with their parents, they don’t have a job, and they have fights, that’s what happens, but they don’t have a financial choice.”

Following the interview, Private Eye magazine reported that Stratton had actually dismissed other potential interviewees offered up by Tower Hamlets council, including a couple with four children who faced having to leave London after losing their jobs.

Private Eye reported Stratton as telling council officials that they “must have got people living on benefits as a lifestyle choice” and that “people should think about whether they can afford kids before they have them”.

The interview was met with severe public backlash, and sparked headlines like “How Newsnight humiliated single mother Shanene Thorpe” and “How Newsnight demonised a single mother”.

Stratton faced backlash following the interview (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Thorpe created a petition which demanded an apology from Stratton and the BBC, and managed to gather over 27,000 signatures.

In the petition, Thorpe said: “I was approached by the BBC to be interviewed on Newsnight to talk about what it’s like being a working mum struggling to pay rent and housing costs.

“Of course I was happy to do it, being a working mum is something I’m proud of. It hasn’t always been plain sailing.

“But I did not expect to be totally scrutinised, have judgements made about my choices and asked why I chose to have my child - a beautiful, sociable and happy three year old girl.

“I have done my best for her and wanted to bring her up independently. But the BBC has humiliated me and I want them to apologise for portraying me and my family in this way.”

Following an official complaint made to the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit, a correction and an apology was issued.

On 30 August 2012, presenter Gavin Esler said: “During an item on welfare reform, we broadcast an interview with Shanene Thorpe that unfairly created the mistaken impression that she was unemployed and wholly dependent on benefits and suggested she was living off the state as a lifestyle choice.

“She has asked us to make clear she has been in work or in work related education since leaving school.

“Shortly after the programme we published an apology on our website for the unmerited embarrassment and any distress the item caused her. We’re happy to make this broadcast apology as well.”

When did she work for Boris Johnson?

Stratton left ITV News in April 2020 to become Director of Strategic Communications at the Treasury, under Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

From there, Stratton was appointed to the newly created role of Downing Street press secretary in October 2020.

As the Downing Street press secretary, a role which paid between £125,000 and £130,000 according to The Times, Stratton was expected to be the face of regular televised press conferences, a move that would have been a departure from how communication chiefs had previously operated - behind closed doors.

These new televised press briefings were originally scheduled to launch in November 2020 - however this date was ultimately delayed time and time again.

After multiple delays, it was announced in April 2021 that the briefings would be scrapped altogether. The Times reported the briefings were axed over concerns about giving “oxygen” to difficult stories for ministers.

Allegra Stratton (far left) and chief of staff Dan Rosenfield (C) listen as Boris Johnson holds a remote press conference to update the nation on the post-Brexit trade agreement (Photo: PAUL GROVER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The same month it was announced that Stratton would be the Prime Minister’s spokesperson for the COP26 summit, which took place in Glasgow, in November 2021.

Speaking of her COP26 role, Stratton said at the time: “I’m delighted to be starting this new role. The COP26 climate conference is an opportunity to deliver a cleaner, greener world and I’m looking forward to working with the Prime Minister and Alok Sharma to ensure this is a significant success.”

Following the end of the COP26 summit on 13 November, and Stratton’s role appeared to be unclear.

According to the Evening Standard, a Downing Street spokesperson said that Stratton is still the PM’s spokesperson on COP26 and that they declined to comment on her future role, stating that next year is “a long way off”.

In a statement, Stratton said that she would “regret the remarks for the rest of my days”.

She said: “The British people have made immense sacrifices in the battle against Covid-19. I now fear my comments in the leaked video of 20 December may have become a distraction against 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 offer my profound apologies to all of you for them.”

She added: “To all of you who lost loved ones, endured intolerable loneliness and struggled with your businesses - I am sorry and this afternoon I have offered my resignation to the Prime Minister.”

Johnson described Stratton as an “outstanding spokeswoman” and said he was “very sorry to lose her” after her resignation.

Who is her husband James Forsyth?

Stratton’s husband is James Forsyth, who is the political editor of The Spectator magazine, an outlet that the Prime Minister himself used to famously be the editor of.

He is also a weekly columnist writer for The Times, and has previously written for The Sun and the Mail on Sunday.

Forsyth attended Winchester College and Jesus College, Cambridge, and was the assistant editor for the Foreign Policy magazine before going on to launch Coffee House, which is The Spectator’s political blog in 2007.

In 2008, he was appointed as the online deputy editor and then political editor the following year.

Stratton and Forsyth married in 2011 (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Forsyth is also an advisory board member of the think tank ResPublica, in Westminster, which describes itself as “an independent non-partisan think tank, that seeks to establish a new economic, social and cultural settlement for the United Kingdom”.

Forsyth has been close friends with Rishi Sunak since the two were in school together at Winchester College. Sunak was even the best man at Forsyth and Stratton’s wedding, and are godparents to each other’s children.

Stratton and Forsyth married in 2011, and the pair have two children together.

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