Leading article: The hypocritical party

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David Cameron came in for some flak when he described the UK Independence Party as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" last month. But, in retrospect, perhaps the Conservative Party leader's fault was that he did not go far enough. He could have comfortably added "hypocrites" to that list.

It has been revealed that Roger Knapman, the leader of UKIP, is using Polish builders to renovate his grand house in Devon. There is, one might think, nothing particularly strange about that. Central and eastern European labourers have become a common feature of life in Britain since European Union enlargement two years ago gave them the right to work here. "Polish plumbers" have become a kind of shorthand to refer to the efficient parts of the London service economy. But Mr Knapman is the last person one would have expected to have taken advantage of this new resource of labour.

UKIP were the only British group in the European Parliament to vote against allowing central and eastern European states, such as Poland, into the EU. Mr Knapman's party was also deeply opposed to the right of any new entrant citizens to work in the UK, claiming there was no demand for imported labour. We should not forget either that UKIP tapped into some nasty xenophobic instincts in its general election manifesto by raising the spectre of "floods of migrants" coming into Britain.

Mr Knapman cannot even claim that he is simply taking advantage of a cheap resource that - in the best of all worlds - would not be available to him. It turns out that his son has set up a company that specialises in bringing foreign labour to Britain - and Knapman senior has been drumming up business for it.

Sadly, the UKIP leader is by no means alone in accepting the benefits of the EU while refusing to recognise why they exist. A survey by the European Commission reveals that fewer than half of Europeans believes membership is a good thing for their country. Disenchantment with the EU is alarmingly widespread.

Perhaps this is not altogether surprising given the present state of European politics. The EU constitution, which would create a more streamlined voting system, is on ice. The governments in Paris, Rome and Berlin are more concerned with domestic difficulties than the European project. Our own Government has neglected Europe too.

Thankfully, workers like Mr Knapman's Polish builders are keeping the show on the road from an economic perspective. But what a pity that so many of us are too blind - or dishonest - to recognise publicly the contribution such people make.

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