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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Cobra poised for strike
No 10 Downing Street
Cobra meets in Downing Street

Cobra is the dramatic name for the civil contingencies committee which has been convened several times since 1997.

The group, named after the Cabinet Briefing Room A in the bowels of Downing Street where it meets, has been convened over the foot-and-mouth outbreak, fuel tax protests and 11 September attack.

Minister Nick Raynsford
Raynsord will chair meeting
The cast list varies according to the issue being dealt with.

But for the firefighters dispute it is expected at first to include junior ministers from the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Transport.

It will be chaired by "fire services minister" Nick Raynsford.

Chief of Staff

If and when the crisis deepens it will undoubtedly include military top brass and members of the security services.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
Prescott: leading role
At that point, the meetings will become daily affairs and many will be chaired by the prime minister.

Ministers then expected to attend will include Mr Raynsford and his boss, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and Home Secretary David Blunkett will also be involved.

There will also be a host of officials, likely to include the prime minister's chief of staff Jonathan Powell and director of communications Alastair Campbell.

Their job will be to organise the logistics of covering for the striking firefighters with army-led Green Goddesses.

They will also have to plan for the possibility of a major disaster and even the possibility of breaking FBU picket lines.

And, if the dispute intensifies, the way it is policed will be on the agenda.

But they will also inevitably consider the wider political implications of taking on the firefighters and what laws may be needed in future to avert such disruption.


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21 Oct 02 | UK
21 Oct 02 | Politics
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