Terry Prone: Allegra Stratton can’t undo the damage — but at least she knows how to say sorry

As a proxy for Boris Johnson, she gets little public sympathy — but Allegra Stratton’s apology was flawless and simple, writes Terry Prone.
Terry Prone: Allegra Stratton can’t undo the damage — but at least she knows how to say sorry

Allegra Stratton speaking outside her home in north London where she announced that she has resigned as an adviser to Boris Johnson. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

SUNDAY

No snow. Earlier predictions that today would see us covered in snow prove false, and I find myself murmuring the first line of Dennis O’Driscoll’s wonderful poem about rain:

What’s general all over Ireland is definitely not snow. Sandbag- bulky clouds, about to splurge on rain, close in sulkily on all four provinces, allowing them no quarter, flushing them out.

MONDAY

Three Christmas cards in the office. Ellen helpfully offers to open them. I decline the offer. Not because of a desire for privacy, but because I know it would be pointless. If a Christmas card goes to an office, it’s a corporate jobbie with one or more unreadable signatures. It’s not worth anybody’s while deciphering. Turfed, unopened, is the way to go. 

Not that the ones arriving at my home are any more legible. Seems to me that all Christmas cards achieve is a vague sense of guilt on the part of the recipient, because she’s not able to work out who the hell sent them and needs thanking. Plus a few extra jobs for those delivering the pointless missives.

TUESDAY

 A giant wave crashing over Fenit Pier on the outskirts of Tralee today as Storm Barra hits. Picture: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus LTD
 A giant wave crashing over Fenit Pier on the outskirts of Tralee today as Storm Barra hits. Picture: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus LTD

Storm Barra hits. From a high window, one can watch the waves lashing against the cliffs and the walls surrounding my Martello Tower, while imagining the bleak time that must have been had by the invalided British soldiers who manned the tower in the 19th century. Cushy for a 21st-century owner sitting in a building with underfloor heating, a wood-burning stove, double-glazed windows, frozen food, and water on tap.

The lads on the lookout in the 1830s and 1840s would have had a sense of helpless isolation far from civilisation in this or any other Martello. Yes, the eight-foot thick walls would have assured them that even if a tree fell on the house, it would be impregnable. But burning the face off yourself at an open fire while your arthritic back is freezing cannot have been comfortable — and these invalided troops were old, injured, and arthritic.

Suddenly, a blue oil tank the size of a wheelie bin on steroids comes knocking at the front (glass) door. I dither between endangering myself by going out to wrangle it into a less potentially dangerous place and letting it do what it will. Before I can decide, it vaults my car — which in fairness isn’t that hard: I could nearly vault a tiny Skoda myself if the wind was behind me — and jams itself between car and wall.

The cats, meanwhile, spend the day yelling at me for causing the gale while considering and rejecting the possibility of using the cat flap to go out to do their business.

“Pee indoors and you will never pee again,” I tell them with gentle affection.

WEDNESDAY

Allegra Stratton announces that she has resigned as an adviser to Boris Johnson after footage emerged of her apparently showing Downing Street aides joking about a Christmas party held during last year's lockdown. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Allegra Stratton announces that she has resigned as an adviser to Boris Johnson after footage emerged of her apparently showing Downing Street aides joking about a Christmas party held during last year's lockdown. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Allegra Stratton resigns. She’s the woman at the centre of the disastrous simulated press conference at Downing Street this time last year, revealed by someone who held a video of it for a full year, all the better to destroy reputations with, my dear. 

Photographs show her to have aged 20 years in that time. As a proxy for the increasingly rejectable Boris, she gets little public sympathy. It should nonetheless be admitted that this woman understands how to deliver an apology.

A good apology specifies just how bad was the original offence, acknowledges how it must have been experienced by those affected, makes no excuses, says sorry, and outlines a plan to rectify the infraction if such rectification is possible. In this case, it’s not possible, but Allegra’s apology, otherwise, was flawless and simple.

“The British people have made immense sacrifices in the battle against Covid-19," she said. 

I now fear that my comments in the leaked video of December 20 may have become a distraction against 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.”

THURSDAY

A cartoon appears. Ancient. Maybe going back to the Regency. It shows people getting cowpox vaccination. Someone needs to come up with a new term to cover the injections we’re getting and will continue to get at irregular or regular intervals in the years ahead. 

They’re not really vaccines at all. Not as we know vaccines. Not as disease preventers. More mitigators, they are. Like the steroid inhalers filled with powdery stuff asthmatics suck into their lungs each morning. A new terminology should apply.

FRIDAY

Dorothy Parker, being a raffish sort, once said that if all of her friends were laid end to end, she wouldn’t be a bit surprised. If all the earbuds I have bought were laid end to end, they’d stretch around the world — the only problem being that they couldn’t be laid end to end because I always lose one of them. Just one.

Some TV programmes insist that if you appear on them, you wear earphones when broadcasting from home and if I wear the big over-the-head type I look like Biggles on a bad day, so I keep buying the little yokes in the hope I’ll find a pair one of which won’t break for the border, mid-programme. Even if I have peculiarly-structured ears, I don’t believe I’m on my own with the earbud problem and you have to wonder why someone like 3M doesn’t come up with a glue that would keep them in for an hour or so. Although the glue for sticky notes was invented by accident, so maybe another accident is required before earbud glue is developed.

Not being able to wear earbuds makes me fearful of what will happen to me if my hearing deteriorates. I’ve not reached the stage of giving out to everybody for mumbling, but am resigned to the inevitability of it. I figure it will improve my life in one sense, because it will be like autocorrect, which turns “Cillian de Gascun” into “Cillian the Gas Gun” and “Christmas plays and communions” into the much more exciting “Christmas blazing communions”. 

So far, I have not mangled an incoming oral message the way writer Auberon Waugh once did. He went to a West African country to speak about breastfeeding at a dinner and was told by the organiser afterwards he had mis-heard the original request. They had wanted him to talk about press freedom.

SATURDAY

This newspaper quietly announces that on Saturday, December 18, it will donate 20c from every copy of the Irish Examiner sold to the St Vincent de Paul society. 

For more than a century, SVP has been the lifeline for individuals and families in trouble. Amazing, how an entity once criticised by the left for helping perpetuate disadvantage has maintained its unique role as the final, unjudging rescuer of the unfortunate. 

At a time when charities are too often in the news for malfeasance, the steadfast service provided by SVP is exemplary.

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