PM's ex-press secretary Allegra Stratton 'must be careful' not to unfairly aid new employer

Anti-corruption watchdog says journalist’s network and influence could give give Bloomberg News unfair advantage
Allegra Stratton outside No.10. Photo: PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

22 Jun 2022

The government’s anti-corruption watchdog has warned the prime minister’s former press secretary, Allegra Stratton, of the need for “propriety” in her new job, warning her No.10 experience could unfairly help her new employer.

Stratton, who resigned from her position as Boris Johnson’s Cop26 spokesperson in December over a Partygate video leak, has been told to avoid any activity that would give Bloomberg News unfair access to insight about the government.

The former ITV News national editor’s return to journalism after around a year in government communications was announced earlier this month, when the publication announced it had hired her as a contributing editor.

Stratton told the committee she will be writing about UK and global policy and government but her role “will not involve contact with government”.

But the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments said: “Given her previous senior and central position in government there is a risk her network and influence might assist Bloomberg News unfairly.

“In particular, she must be careful not to offer any unfair insight [or] access as a result of her access to information and potential influence in government,” the committee said.

Stratton stood down from her climate conference role in December after a leaked video showed her joking about an alleged party at No.10 while Covid-19 restrictions were in place at Christmas 2020.

As Cop26 spokesperson, Stratton would have had access to privileged information, specifically around the climate conference. Acoba said this may be of general use to Bloomberg News, but added that Stratton was not responsible for regulatory or policy decisions and much of the relevant policy is in the public domain, with the conference having taken place in November.

Stratton is also bound by the Official Secrets Act and an ongoing duty of confidentiality. The committee reminded Stratton that it is her responsibility to ensure her editorial work meets these standards.

The committee said there was a low risk that Stratton could be seen to have been offered the Bloomberg job as a reward for decisions made, or actions taken in office.

Stratton met with journalists from the publication during her time as press secretary as well as many other major media outlets, Acoba said. But the watchdog said she was not involved in policy or commercial decisions specific to Bloomberg News.

The committee said Stratton joining the title as a contributing editor would not raise any concerns if she meets the following conditions during the next two years.

Despite stressing the need for “propriety” in her new job, the committee did not impose unusually restrictive conditions on Stratton's return to the private sector.

Instead, it said she must abide by Acoba’s standard rules – that for two years after leaving government, she must not lobby the UK government or any of its arm’s-length bodies on behalf of Bloomberg News; use her government contacts to influence policy, secure business/funding or otherwise unfairly advantage the business; or provide advice to Bloomberg on any bid or contract directly related to the government or its ALBs.

The committee added that Stratton should not draw on any privileged information available to her from her time in government at any point in the future.

The Cabinet Office told Acoba: “Cop26 has now passed and the policies implemented, so it is unlikely her former role would be of use to Bloomberg News.”

The department said it had also been more than a year since she was the PM’s press secretary and more than five months since she left government, which would “further reduce the currency of information Stratton was party to”.

The Cabinet Office agreed that it would be inappropriate for Stratton to use her internal contacts developed from her time at No.10 and the Treasury but said it otherwise had no concerns about her new role.

Stratton was Johnson’s press secretary from October 2020 to March 2021 and before that spent six months as chancellor Rishi Sunak’s director of strategic communications.

A former BBC, Guardian, Times, Independent, New Statesman and ITV News journalist, she was brought into the PM’s team to hold White House-style press conferences after the government spent £2.6m on a venue to hold the briefings. But she left the role after Johnson decided to scrap the briefings, instead becoming spokesperson for the Cop26 summit held in Glasgow in November.

Her new role at Bloomberg News will include writing a daily UK-focused newsletter and a weekly column.

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