Boris Johnson ‘missing in action’, Labour says as Gove fails to deny PM missed five emergency Cobra meetings

‘There are serious questions as to why the prime minister skipped five Cobra meetings throughout February,’ says shadow health secretary

Michael Gove: 'The idea that the Prime Minister skipped meetings that were vital to our response to the coronavirus is grotesque'

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of being “missing in action” after the prime minister missed five emergency meetings on coronavirus at the start of the crisis.

Michael Gove rejected the allegation as “grotesque” in an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, but later conceded that Mr Johnson had not been present at all of the Cobra meetings.

Mr Gove confirmed the prime minister did not attend five Cobra meetings in the run-up to the outbreak arriving in the UK, stating: “He didn’t. But then he wouldn’t.

“Because most Cobra meetings don’t have the prime minister attending them.”

Mr Johnson, who is currently recovering from Covid-19, is facing accusations that he was slow to respond at the start of the pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of more than 15,000 Britons.

The prime minister only attended Cobra meetings on the virus after more than 40 people had been infected in the UK, according to The Sunday Times.

An acronym for Cabinet Office briefing room A, Cobra meetings are used to discuss crises including terror attacks.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Gove’s warning that one or two aspects of The Sunday Times story were “off beam” was “possibly the weakest rebuttal of a detailed expose in British political history”.

He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “None of us expect the impossible, we understand that mistakes will be made in a crisis of this nature, but there are serious questions as to why the prime minister skipped five Cobra meetings throughout February, when the whole world could see how serious this was becoming.

“And we know that serious mistakes have been made, we know that our frontline NHS staff don’t have the PPE, that they’ve been told this weekend that they won’t necessarily have the gowns which are vital to keep them safe. We know that our testing capacity is not at the level that is needed… and now we hear the prime minister missed five meetings at the start of this outbreak. It suggests that early on he was missing in action.”

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