|House of Lords member John Sewel has resigned |
while police investigate his alleged use of cocaine and prostitutes.
(Suzanne Hubbard/Associated Press)
A member of the upper chamber of Britain's Parliament resigned on Tuesday, apologizing for causing "pain and embarrassment" after he was filmed allegedly snorting cocaine during sessions with sex workers.
John Sewel — whose title is Lord Sewel — caved in to pressure, telling parliamentary officials he was "terminating my membership of the House of Lords."
"I hope my decision will limit and help repair the damage I have done to an institution I hold dear," said Sewel, who had been chairman of the Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee, responsible for enforcing standards.
Sewel avoids irony of ironies
Less than two weeks previously, Sewel had written an article boasting of how the House of Lords had taken steps to protect its image. He had said only a small number of lords broke the rules and that most understood that personal honour came first.
Sewel, as parliamentary disciplinarian had instituted a system whereby a Lord could be removed from the House for unseemly behaviour. Had he not resigned, he might have become the first casualty of his own rules.
The 69-year-old former academic is at the centre of a political sleaze scandal after The Sun tabloid ran images appearing to show him snorting white powder through a rolled-up banknote and lounging in an orange bra. The paper said the footage was filmed at Sewel's apartment near Parliament.
Police have searched the apartment as part of an investigation sparked by the Sun's claims.
The House of Lords reviews legislation passed by the elected House of Commons, and for most of its 900-year history was composed of hereditary nobles. In recent years members have been appointed for life by the government. There are currently 783 peers — a collection of former lawmakers, lawyers, corporate leaders and other notables with an average age of 70 — and the chamber is often criticized as over-stuffed and out of touch.
Sewel is not the first peer to behave badly. Novelist Jeffrey Archer — Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare — was imprisoned for perjury in 2001, while former media baron Conrad Black, or Lord Black of Crossharbour, served prison time in the U.S. after being convicted of fraud in 2007.
This story comes on the heels of the revelation that Lord Bercow, Speaker of the Lower House, made some extraordinary expense claims like charging parliament 172 pounds (over $300) for the trip from home to Westminster - a trip of less than a mile. Lord Bercow has lectured students on the need for probity among lawmakers and helped oversee the introduction of more transparent standards after a devastating parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009.
With the cover-up of decades of child sex abuse around Westminster -