Trouble ahead in Lords over elected police chiefs?

Watch out Theresa! The Lords second reading debate on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill included a quite devastating speech by the former Met Commissioner Lord (formerly Sir Ian) Blair, which will not have delighted the Home Secretary.

The central proposal in the Bill is to create US-style elected Police Commissioners with the aim of making policing more accountable - and Sir Ian, who you'll remember was unceremoniously dumped by Boris Johnson, even though he didn't have a formal power to do so, dismissed the idea as "wrong in principle".

It was, he said, "the weakest link" in American policing. "I fear that the idea is an unintended changeling, a potential cuckoo in the nest of policing. It will set back 60 years of progress towards the establishment of the operational independence of the police which is the jewel in the crown of British Policing."

He predicted that the commissioners would have an effective power to sack chief constables, whatever the formal processes laid down in the Bill. If it came to the crunch incumbents would face the choice he had faced with Mayor Johnson, of going quietly or going to war with his own Police Authority.

The result, he warned, would be that chief constables would back away from conflict with their commissioners, would hesitate to investigate allegations against their cronies and would find it hard to defend the always indistinct line between questions of policy and questions of operations - of who and what to investigate, for example.

Other top cops in the Lords, including the former Chief Inspector of Constabulary Lord Dear have a different view. The former Home Secretary Michael Howard refused to accept Lord Blair's prediction - he doubts Chief Constables would be so pusillanimous.

But the Home Secretary should watch out. There's no doubt that many noble lords are sharpening their legislative knives to fillet out elected commissioners - and as they've already shown in this Parliament, they're not shy about re-writing legislation they don't like.

It wasn't going to happen this week; the Lords never throw out bills on second reading. But at Committee and Report stages the fur may fly.