Boris Johnson’s former press secretary has been accused of misleading journalists over the Prime Minister’s Downing Street flat refurbishments.
Labour has called for an investigation into whether Allegra Stratton “knowingly misled” journalists over the refurbishments, which were allegedly paid for through undeclared political donations.
Calls for investigation
Deputy leader Angela Rayner has written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case demanding that he investigates.
Ms Rayner said: “As a special adviser, Allegra Stratton is bound by the Civil Service Code which sets out standards of integrity and honesty required from public officials.
“Therefore, I would urge you to build into your review an investigation into whether the former press secretary knowingly misled journalists and the public, or was misled herself by senior members of the Government who seem intent on a cover-up.”
Speaking to reporters on 8 March, Ms Stratton denied that Conservative Party funds were being used to cover the costs.
She said: “Conservative Party funds are not being used to pay for any refurbishment of the Downing Street estate.”
The Conservative HQ “supports the leader of the Tory party in their political activities but not in the way it is being accused of”.
When asked if the party had encouraged donors to pay for the refurbishment, Ms Strattong said that “all of those donations” would be declared through the Electoral Commission, the House of Commons register of members’ interests or in ministerial transparency declarations.
“At every twist and turn of this there will be records and reports,” she added.
Asked about suggestions to the contrary, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I’ve seen the reports and the speculation on that, I’m not going to jump ahead of any potential declarations that need to be made.”
Downing Street has declined to say whether Mr Johnson received a loan from the Conservative Party for the refurbishment, which is estimated to have cost up to £200,000.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister has said, if there’s anything to be said, any declarations to be made, they will be made in due course in the normal manner.”
“Any costs of the wider refurbishment in No 10 have been met by the Prime Minister and he has acted in accordance with the appropriate codes of conduct and electoral law.”
Who is Allegra Stratton?
Ms Stratton is a British journalist and writer, with a rich history in broadcast journalism, and is credited with working at some of the nation’s biggest newsbrands in her career.
Having graduated from Cambridge University, she started her media career as a producer for the BBC before moving into print journalism and working as a political correspondent at The Guardian.
In 2011, she married James Forsyth, the political editor of The Spectator, the conservative magazine which Mr Johnson used to edit.
She returned to the BBC in 2012 working as political editor of BBC Newsnight and later went on to become national editor of ITV news, making her first appearance on ITV’s News at Ten in January 2016.
The 39-year-old also co-presented Peston on Sunday with Robert Peston for four years up to 2018.
In April last year, she left ITV news to become the director of strategic communications for the Chancellor at the Treasury.
In October 2020, she was given the newly-created role of Downing Street Press Secretary, working as Boris Johnson’s official spokeswoman at the televised daily press briefings, which were initially scheduled to launch in November 2020.
The briefings were then delayed until 11 January 2021, but the launch date was repeatedly pushed back to the Covid-19 lockdowns.
On 20 April it was announced that the briefings would be scrapped entirely, with Ms Stratton instead taking on the role as spokesperson for the COP26 summit, due to be held in Glasgow in November.
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