Politics can be the most violent of all sports. But even by the standards of this particular rumble in the Whitehall jungle, what has happened to Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s erstwhile, ill-fated Press secretary, is pretty below the belt.

I hesitate to say sexist, too, because I’m the last person to play that particular card; but it’s hard to take it out of the equation.

Certainly, when Dominic Cummings messed up — as he did to a much greater degree with that infamous trip to Barnard Castle — he was cut way more slack inside No. 10 more than Stratton. This was easy, as she received none.

A tearful Allegra Stratton announced she had quit offering a 'profound apology' for giving the impression that she was 'making light' of Covid rules in a leaked video. Ms Stratton - who quipped on the video that she had not attended a Christmas party at Downing Street last Christmas - wept as she read her resignation statement tonight

Allegra Stratton, who was in tears after revealing that she no longer offered a “profound apology” for making light of Covid rules in the leaked video, said she would not offer another. As she read her resignation letter tonight, Ms Stratton cried as she jokingly said that she hadn’t been to Downing Street Christmas parties last year.

Cummings was actually, evidently, breaking the rules. He is, however, a man. . . and politics is — still — a man’s world. Their own interests are protected. It’s so ingrained they don’t even know they’re doing it.

Stratton had every right to resign. The moment that the video leaked, it became clear she didn’t have any other choice.

Not because it was irrefutable proof of guilt or arrogance or wrongdoing — it wasn’t any of those things.

Because to stay in such a cowardly nest would have been self-harm. It is better for her to get out of there. It may not feel like that now, but once she gets her head fully out of the cesspit, she’ll realise it.

In fact, she’ll probably look back on this as the best thing that ever happened to her.

One possibility is that the ITV clip could have been leaked by an employee of the video production company.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a press conference for the latest Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on December 8, 2021

Boris Johnson is Britain’s Prime minister and holds a press conference in London to discuss the Covid-19 latest update. The conference takes place in Downing Street, central London.

But it could also have been one of the group involved in the practice session — someone who was prepared to make it public in the full knowledge it would destroy her. It was someone who understood that this would distract attention away from the main story and focus on Stratton. It was likely that she would see her face plastered across every page, and then be shamed and ridiculed on social media.

Because the truth is that, as a society — in the Press, on the internet — we still love demonising women. They’re bright, beautiful, ambitious, and successful. It’s as though we just can’t wait to take them down a peg or two. Just like that old Harry Enfield sketch: ‘Women, know your limits!’

We’ve seen it in relation to Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, dubbed ‘Carrie Antoinette’ and characterised as a meddling shrew.

Stratton has never been able to sit well at No. 10. Cummings opposed her appointment, largely because he thought she would end up being an ally to Carrie — and ever since she has been more briefed against than briefing.

Quite simply, there were a lot of people around the Prime Minister who didn’t like the idea of a couple of women having so much influence. Who still don’t. This could explain the leak.

It was part of a series of training sessions to help Stratton prepare for tough questions. It was supposed to be a private space in which to practise failing — which is what she did. Making it public is not only a grotesque abuse of trust, it’s also deeply unfair. 

In the bombshell video a No 10 aide asks a question about 'a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night', to which Allegra Stratton laughed and replied: 'I went home.'

Bombshell video: A No. 10 assistant asks about Friday’s Downing Street Christmas party. AllegraStratton replies laughing, “I went home.”

Stratton is often criticized for her laugh during sessions, which she has portrayed as mocking lockdown.

But anyone with half a brain can see that’s not arrogant laughter — it’s nervous laughter.

She’s reacting to the awkwardness of the situation, and at being put through her paces in a bizarre mock Press conference by colleagues clearly alluding to something she knows is wrong but which, theoretically, it might be her job to defend.

It’s a shambles, but not in the way it’s been depicted. Because what you see is not someone taking the mickey out of the British public: it’s a woman who’s struggling to lie convincingly.

In my book, that’s no bad thing. It may also explain why Number. 10 wanted to throw her under a bus.

We are shocked that she has not yet resigned from the team, and is thus the most responsible member of this group. Aren’t they at all ashamed of themselves?

Ed Oldfield is the man who asked that question and where are they now? It seems that it has to always be the woman carrying the responsibility for men’s mistakes.

Stratton was standing outside her house and looking at the camera as she gave her resignation speech.

It’s a look I recognize, it is how I feel to have been defeated. Defeated by a political machine that twists people out of shape, that warps their true intentions — and that shows no mercy.