YOU really couldn’t make it up. No, honestly, you couldn't.

One of the most high-ranking members of the House of Lords – the figure charged with enforcing standards and conduct in the Lords, no less – appears on the front of a national tabloid in the most embarrassing circumstances imaginable.

Firstly, he is filmed allegedly snorting cocaine through a £5 note, while cavorting with prostitutes in his rent-protected flat.

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Then he is pictured wearing a pink bra and a leather jacket amid revelations that he described David Cameron as “the most facile prime minister”, Boris Johnson as “an upper-class twit”, and Alex Salmond as “a silly pompous prat”.

Had it been a story-line in a Tom Sharpe novel, or a comedy sketch penned by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, it would surely have been considered to be too far-fetched.

But this is the depth of the hole former Deputy Lords Speaker Lord Sewel appears to have dug for himself, with police now launching a criminal investigation.

This is a man who is paid £120,000 a year – £84,525 for part-time work chairing committees in the Lords and £36,000 for maintaining a home in London.

And, while the rest of us are tightening our belts, Mr Cameron is poised to increase the number of Lords sitting in the already bloated upper house from 790. Incredible isn’t it?

What is even more incredible is that Lord Sewel should still have a place in the chamber at all. He has resigned as Deputy Speaker but he apparently has no intention to give up is seat while the various investigations into his conduct are continuing.

If we needed a reminder of why so many powerful figures would like to curtail Britain’s free press – and why that freedom remains so vital – it has arrived in a blur of white powder and pink, ill-fitting ladies’ underwear.