There has not been a whips' operation like it since the sick were ferried in by ambulance to keep Jim Callaghan's government afloat. There will be no rest this weekend for Hilary Armstrong, the government Chief Whip, and her troops as they pull every trick to bring in the votes.
Marsha Singh, the MP for Bradford West, is laid up with a broken ankle, but now that he has pledged the Government his support, the whips are organising a car to take him from Bradford to Westminster. But a Scottish MP laid up after a minor stroke may be spared the 800-mile round trip because the whips are not sure they can rely on his vote.
An argument is raging over the parliamentary delegation to this week's Council of Europe meeting. The 17 Labour MPs, five Conservatives and two Liberal Democrats will be in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The opposition MPs have been formally told by their whips to fly back, which allows them to reclaim their air fares. But Ms Armstrong has refused to recall Labour rebels, forcing them to choose between missing the vote and paying the £600 fare. One delegate, Paul Flynn, said: "I will be coming back and I will vote against the Government. It's not an issue as far as I'm concerned, because you know that if you decide to come back in the middle of one of these trips, you pay your own fare."Reuse content