‘Blair and Brown never missed Cobra meetings’, says former Downing Street chief aide

Ex-chief scientific adviser says he cannot recall Labour PMs missing key meetings

The chief scientific adviser under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has said he cannot recall a Cobra meeting which was not attended by the prime minister of the time.

His comments come after a wide-ranging report in The Sunday Times which said Boris Johnson missed five meetings of the key Cobra committee in the run-up to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Boris Johnson ‘skipped five Cobra meetings on coronavirus’
Sir David King (right) has responded to claims Boris Johnson missed five Cobra meetings in the run up to the coronavirus outbreak.

Michael Gove, a long-time ally of Mr Johnson told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show that "most Cobra meetings don't have the prime minister attending them".

He had earlier told Sky News's Sophy Ridge: "The idea that the Prime Minister skipped meetings that were vital to our response to the coronavirus, I think is grotesque."

Professor Sir David King, who was chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007, was asked about The Sunday Times investigation in which a Whitehall source claimed the Government "missed the boat on testing and PPE" (personal

protective equipment) and "just watched" as the death toll mounted in Wuhan, China.

Sir David told Sky News: "What really is emphasised in that piece is the fact that the government ministers had their eye off the ball.

"They were totally focused on other issues such as Brexit, and the celebration of us emerging from Europe.

"The Prime Minister had other things on his mind, and we're fully aware of this, but apparently he didn't attend five Cobra meetings on this issue.

"And when Michael Gove says 'but prime ministers don't attend all Cobra meetings', I cannot recall a Cobra meeting when it was called with Blair or Brown as prime minister when the prime minister wasn't in the chair."

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