Allegra Stratton has now stepped down as the government’s spokesperson for the Cop26 climate summit after footage emerged of her joking about a party at Downing Street during the peak of lockdown rules in December last year.
In a video recording of what is reported to be a rehearsal for a TV media briefing, Allegra Stratton and senior Number 10 aides were filmed talking and laughing about a Christmas party.
They also jokingly referred to a “business meeting” and a “cheese and wine” event.
The footage, obtained by ITV News, is said to be from 22 December last year – four days after an alleged Christmas party took place in Number 10.
In a statement sent to journalists and read out to TV crews in front of her home, Boris Johnson’s former press secretary said she deeply regretted joking with other No 10 aides during a rehearsal for a later-dropped plan for filmed Downing Street press conferences.
While it was all ‘Tears Before Bedtime’ in the Stratton household, let’s look back at how Stratton attempted to shame a young single mother as a benefit scrounger.
Stratton is a former journalist who worked as BBC Newsnight’s political editor from 2012 to 2016. A controversial segment has since resurfaced from her time on the show in the wake of the Downing Street video being published.
The incident, which was filmed in May 2012, which started off innocently enough as an investigation into “what it’s like being a working mum struggling to pay rent and housing costs” turned into an interrogation with political editor Allegra Stratton as chief inquisitor and Shanene as one of the irresponsible unemployed who should be living with her child in her mother’s two-bed flat.
In the short interview, very little is said about the context of the woman’s situation – she is only asked why she wants a house.
Then Stratton says: “we both know people who are living with their parents… they don’t have a job and… they have fights – that’s what happens.”
Later, directly to the camera, she adds: “The government is thinking of saying to young people: if you don’t have work, don’t leave home.”
Shanene is, in fact, a working mother who pays taxes and can’t make enough from her job at Tower Hamlets Council to house herself and her children. Like many others, she is dependent on the state to support her landlord – there being a decided lack of public housing in these here parts – but you don’t see many of them put through the wringer.
The questions which should have been asked: where is the social housing and where are the decent liveable wages?
After the interview, Stratton tells the camera: “The government is thinking of saying to young people: if you don’t have work, don’t leave home,” as reported by The New Statesman.
Thorpe, who wasn’t unemployed, launched a petition shortly after the interview aired where she stated: “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 personally 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.”
After the petition was signed by more than 27,000 people, Newsnight offered an apology. A spokesperson for BBC News said in December 2012: “Newsnight contacted Shanene Thorpe when we became aware of the petition. An apology was made personally to Shanene and published on the programme’s website and the BBC complaints website on 1 June, a week after the interview was broadcast.
You can watch the on-air apology from presenter Gavin Esler in the video below.
“Shanene then decided to lodge an official complaint to the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit. Following its ruling in August, a correction and apology was made on-air.”