Battle lines drawn as party touts for suitable candidates while its own peers work to derail controversial Tory policy.
Lib Dem peers hope to derail Theresa May's plan for elected police commissioners.
The Liberal Democrats are advertising for candidates to become elected police commissioners despite the party's peers still believing they can derail the policy in the House of Lords.
The bill to bring in one of the prime minister's and home secretary's most cherished policies was defeated in the Lords by Lib Dem peers in the last parliamentary term.
The Lords and Commons must now get together soon after parliament reconvenes in the autumn to agree how the legislation will reflect the Lords vote. The scene is set for a battle as Tories in the lower house do not want to water down their policy.
They are now highlighting the fact that the Lib Dems themselves are touting for candidates – a fact seized on as evidence that the party has little faith in its parliamentary efforts to derail the bill.
Campaigners in favour of elected police commissioners intend to have legislation in place in time for the first batch of police commissioners to be elected on the same day as next May's local elections.
The longer into the autumn the Lib Dems can delay the bill, the less likely that becomes, given the time the electoral commission would need to make the necessary arrangements.
In a speech delivered last week, the home secretary, Theresa May, used the police response to the riots to push her case again. "One thing is clear. The experience … makes the case for police reform more urgent than ever."
Senior Lib Dems opposed to the policy fear an elected police commissioner might play to a particular portion of their electorate in a bid for popularity. Cost is also a concern. According to a Home Office answer to a parliamentary question, the system could cost £130m to set up and run and another £50m every four years at election time – this while the government asks the police to cut their costs by 20%.
Peers voted in May against introducing elected commissioners, leaving open the possibility of their being appointed by a board of experts.
Tory sources said the issue was one of trust between David Cameron and Nick Clegg as the Lib Dem leader acquiesced to the policy in the coalition negotiations.
The coalition agreement reads: "We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives."
Advisers now say there is a small window of time for Clegg to decide whether he is going to face down his peers in the Lords to ensure the legislation is passed.
Blair Gibbs, research director at Policy Exchange said: "This policy has clear support from the top and if anything, after recent months, the argument for a clearer system of police accountability is stronger than ever.
"Most senior police officers now accept this reform is going to happen. There are some unelected peers and local councillors with a vested interest in the old regime who are still grumbling, but they cannot stop this reform from happening.
"The mandate is clear and the main parties are starting to plan for the elections and search for good candidates. It is no longer a case of if and why we should have police and crime commissioners, or even how and when, but who.
"These roles are really important and their success will depend more on the calibre of the office holders than any final minor amendments to the legislation."
Lib Dem MPs plan to hold an emergency debate at their party conference but Tory advisers believe the issue needs to be wound up in early September.