I am indeed a member of the political class, but I think I see it perhaps with more objectivity than those who tabled this amendment. If your Lordships' House has a vote and less than 40 per cent turn out for it, the result is still valid. If 10 per cent of your Lordships' House votes, perhaps rather late at night, the result is still valid.
I say that those who tabled this amendment really do not understand the disdain of the people of this country for the political class, and that disdain is justified. Look at the position into which our political class has led this country over the past 50 years-since Suez, perhaps, and we got that wrong. Our children cannot learn to read; our prisons are overflowing with the illiterate; our hospitals are dirty; we are failing the old, most of whom end their lives in misery and loneliness; our streets are dangerous; our transport is creaky; our police are overburdened and overbureaucratised; even our Armed Forces are being asked to do too much with too little, and their morale is beginning to crack; immigration is out of control; Islamism is on the march; and our economy is in terrible trouble, the pain of which will, of course, be visited upon the people. I think the British people are justified in thinking very ill of their political class.
Noble Lords may remember that for about two minutes last year I was the leader of the UK Independence Party and, rather against my will, we consulted focus groups, which I always think should be completely unnecessary. Even I was surprised by the answer to the question about what people thought about the political class. Every class of the British people in every area of this country said that they regarded the political class not with dislike, not with disdain, not with distrust, not even with anger, but with hatred. I believe that our system of representative parliamentary democracy, which those who tabled this amendment and the leaders of our political class like so much, is no longer supported by the people, and therefore has broken down.
Do not let us forget that up to the 19th century and the early 20th century most people in this country could not read, so it was reasonable to send representatives to Westminster to take decisions for them. But now people can read. On the whole, they are very much more sensible than the people who represent them and they want referendums. They want referendums not only on the European Union but perhaps across the board, which might be the only way to reconnect the people with their democracy. I believe that their decisions-even if only 15 per cent of them turn out to vote-will be very much wiser than those of our failed political class. Therefore, I oppose these amendments.