Lord Sewel coke prostitutes the sun
Lord Sewel, dubbed "Lord Coke" by The Sun, was allegedly caught on video taking cocaine with prostitutes.The Sun

It is not often that a member of the House of Lords does something worthy of massive media attention. And when they do, it is not usually for a good reason.

And so it is with the man dubbed "Lord Coke" by The Sun, which exposed via an explosive secret video married Lord Sewel allegedly indulging in a cocaine and prostitutes orgy while boasting that parliamentary expenses were helping to pay for it and slagging off other politicians.

Sewel is a career academic and politician who was made a lord in 1996. He sat on a number of different Lords committees and, most recently, held the title of chairman of committees. After The Sun's story, Sewel quit the House of Lords in disgrace.

But the story is growing wider than one man. It has brought the entire nature of the House of Lords into question yet again, a debate that has rumbled on for decades. In an editorial for The Mirror, political commentator Kevin Maguire called for the abolition of the Lords.

"This medieval anachronism, a feudal hangover from the centuries we were denied votes to elect rulers, is an unaccountable palace of patronage," Maguire wrote.

"It's a dirty, dishonest, rancid, indecent scam to perpetuate vested interests by strengthening the power and privileges of the political establishment."

There are around 760 members of the Lords alone, according to the Parliament website. There are only 535 members of Congress in the US, a country of over 320 million people and the largest economy in the world.

It debates and challenges legislation passed by MPs in the House of Commons. While the Lords has the power to vote down legislation it does not agree with, the government can invoke powers under the Parliament Act that allow it to force law on to the statute books in spite of opposition from lords.

Lord Sewel
Video footage shows Baron John Sewel allegedly snorting a white substance with rolled-up bank noteUPPA/Photoshot

Some, such as former Labour leader Ed Miliband, call for the Lords to be reformed into a fully elected senate, to do away with the "donations for peerdom" culture that has destroyed confidence and trust in the current system, as well as make lawmaking members directly accountable to the public.

But proponents of the current system argue parliament benefits from having some of its politicians not directly accountable to an electorate because they are able to speak more freely in debates than MPs, and that many lords come with serious expertise across all areas.

Lords are not paid a salary but are entitled to office and travel expenses. They are appointed by the Queen, who takes advice from the prime minister's office, where the real power for appointments lies. An independent commission of the House of Lords also recommends non-political people to be appointed as lords, such as experts in certain fields.

"It also vets nominations for life peers, including those nominated by the UK political parties, to ensure the highest standards of propriety," says the Parliament website.

What do you think? Should the Lords be reformed? Or perhaps it should be scrapped altogether? Or maybe the current system is doing just fine? Vote in our poll.