Downing Street Christmas party: how much more of this will the British public take?

As the UK followed the lockdown rules last Christmas, the PM’s press secretary was laughing about a party which the Government is still denying ever took place.

Around this time last year, one of the subjects of much speculation in the Westminster bubble was what to expect from Allegra Stratton’s new “White House-style” televised briefings, which were due to begin in January 2021.

As Robert Peston tweeted last November: “The revolution of televised briefings by the PM’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, is scheduled to start 11 Jan and will be every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday when Commons is sitting.”

The former BBC Newsnight political editor was hired on a six-figure salary in the wake of the Covid briefings, because Boris Johnson believed the public wanted more “direct engagement” with decision-makers.

Allegra Stratton laughs in response to a question about a Downing Street party (Photo: ITV)
Allegra Stratton laughs in response to a question about a Downing Street party (Photo: ITV)
Allegra Stratton laughs in response to a question about a Downing Street party (Photo: ITV)

Fast forward to January 2021 and there was still no sign of those televised briefings, although we later got a glimpse of the shiny new, Union Jack-bedecked studio at 9 Downing Street, which cost the taxpayer £2.6 million to kit out.

Well, now at least the public is getting a sense of what those Stratton-led briefings may have looked like, and we’re also starting to understand why they never materialised.

Stratton erms and errs her way through the excruciating clip, taken from a mock briefing, before losing the thread entirely and asking “What’s the answer?”.

Of course, it’s not her failure to answer a simple question that’s the issue, it’s the tone of the whole thing, and its context.

The cringe-inducing attempt at stand-up comedy when she initially quips “I went home” will be the real gut-punch for the almost seven million people who have already watched the video on ITV News’s Twitter.

She’s clearly attempting the kind of clown act so beloved of her boss, and while there’s a flash of self-awareness when she mutters, “This is recorded” - she’s revelling in the fact that it will never see the light of day.

How wrong she proved to be.

The video was recorded on 22 December, four days after the Downing Street Christmas party was reported to have taken place, and at a time when millions of people up and down the country were abiding by the rules, having festive Zoom calls with loved ones or meeting up in parks to exchange gifts in the cold.

Today Sajid Javid was reportedly lined up to be doing the morning TV broadcast round, but the Government has pulled the plug on that, as it scrambles to figure out what it can possibly say in response to this latest outrage.

Will we get an apology? A resignation? A statement, even?

More importantly, will the British public continue to tolerate being laughed at by this Government?

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