A senior aide of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned after video emerged of her joking about a Christmas party held during lockdown last year.
Allegra Stratton issued a tearful statement outside her home on Wednesday (local time) after the leaked video, obtained by ITV News at a mock press conference, sparked outrage across the country.
In the video Ms Stratton can be seen laughing when asked if Mr Johnson would "condone" a Christmas party. London at the time was under the highest level of restrictions and Christmas parties were prohibited.
The video shows staff trying to hypothetically defend the party.
"Would the prime minister condone having a Christmas party?" one staffer asks her.
"I went home," she laughs, before pausing. "...What's the answer?"
"It wasn't a party, it was cheese and wine," suggests one Downing Street staffer.
"Is cheese and wine all right?" a smiling Ms Stratton responds.
"This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced," she adds.
Mr Johnson has claimed no rules were broken however a source told the BBC that staff drank, ate food and played games late into the night.
The video of Ms Stratton has triggered backlash from the public, who expressed their fury over her remarks, reminding her of the sacrifices and loss of loved ones they endured as the government was widely criticised for its handling of the pandemic last year.
“My remarks seemed to make light of the rules, rules that people were doing everything to obey. That was never my intention," she said outside her home.
"I will regret those remarks for the rest of my days and offer my profound apologies to all of you for them.”
‘This fictional party was a business meeting… and it wasn’t socially distanced’
Video obtained by @ITVNews shows No10 staff laughing about a Downing Street party last Christmas
Watch analysis from @PaulbrandITV and @Peston on News at Ten
Full story: https://t.co/0ItROuHAv6 pic.twitter.com/ayBSl77oLS
— ITV News (@itvnews) December 7, 2021
Mr Johnson has since apologised for the offence caused by the video, announcing an inquiry into the matter would commence.
However Metropolitan Police say they will not investigate due to a lack of evidence.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had "taken the public for fools".
UK introduces new Omicron restrictions
It comes as Mr Johnson tightened Covid-19 restrictions in response to the surging number of Omicron cases.
Calling the change 'Plan B', employees have been instructed to work from home while masks will be mandated for more public venues.
Health authorities fear there are about 10,000 Omicron cases in the country already. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said cases were growing "incredibly fast".
Mr Johnson described the new measures as "proportionate and responsible".
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