Boris Johnson’s adviser has resigned after a video showed her joking about a Christmas Party at Downing Street last year while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.
Trying to hold back the tears, the former ITV journalist offered her “profound apologies” for joking about the party during a rehearsal for a news conference in which other aides asked her about the gathering, said to have taken place on 18 December last year.
However, she sidestepped the issue of whether the party did actually happen at a time when households in London were prevented from mixing indoors.
She said: “The British people have made immense sacrifices in the battle against COVID-19.
“I now fear that my comments in the leaked video of the 20th of December have become a distraction from 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.
“I understand the anger and frustration that people feel.
“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.”
Ms Stratton said that working in government was an “immense privilege” and claimed she “tried to do right by you all”.
She added that she was proud of what was achieved at COP26, as she was the government’s spokeswoman for the climate change conference in November.
In the footage of Ms Stratton from December last year, senior Number 10 aides can be heard jokingly referring to a “business meeting” and a “cheese and wine” event.
A few hours earlier, Mr Johnson apologised over the video and said he was “furious” as he revealed he had asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate whether the party took place – despite insisting he was “repeatedly assured” it had not.
He said that if rules were breached “then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved”.
And he agreed to provide the Metropolitan Police with any information the government has about parties in Downing Street. The force has said it is aware of the footage.
Before his appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson had claimed COVID rules were followed “at all times” in Number 10 but had dodged questions about whether or not a party had taken place.