Party Fears Too
Who’d be a press officer. Not Allegra Stratton any more, after she following the leaking of a video showing her joking about the (alleged) 10 Downing Street Christmas party a year ago during a press conference practice session.
I have some sympathy for Ms Stratton. I’ve been involved in many practice sessions for announcements and interviews over the years, and at many of them something has been said – often as a joke – that would have sounded terrible if repeated in public. That’s sort of what they’re there for. People often say silly things because they are scrambling to find an acceptable answer. The practice environment is supposed to be safe – I often say to clients: “This is where you can make your mistakes.”
If videos of these sessions were leaked, it would be pretty embarrassing for the client and for me. So for the then Number 10 Press Officer to have to resign from her current Government spin doctor role over this seems pretty harsh except:
1. She should not have agreed for this session to be taped and, if it was, should have made sure she gained control of the recording afterward;
2. She should have realised how brutal politics is and, as an advisor, you will be used as cannon fodder to save a senior politicians’ neck;
3. She is new to the game. Ms Stratton has only been on the “dark side” since April 2020 – and at the time she made this mistake was only nine months into her PR career, and only three months into her brief tenure as Boris Johnson’s spokesman. I recall my baptism of fire moving from journalism to being head of media relations for Barclays. Thankfully I had a great team around me to help me avoid too many mistakes. In top level politics it is like The Thick Of It with slightly less swearing. Everyone is out for themselves, as the person who leaked that video has shown.
Of course the comments and the resignation leave Boris Johnson in an invidious position of having denied that a party took place, and then claiming that if one did happen, he didn’t know about it.
Maybe Ms Stratton’s crime was to behave like a teenager whose parents are away and invites a load of mates over. Though I doubt the teenagers would’ve just had cheese and wine.