Whenever a heresy-hunting left-winger fixes me with an accusatory glare and demands to know how can I talk to 'someone like that' (the 'someone' in question being a right-wing object of righteous denunciation) I reply, 'I'm a journalist and will talk to anyone – even you.'

Still, I like to have a choice. I did not have one when I was sitting on a platform discussing Silent Conquest – a film about the 'Muslim' destruction of free speech in Europe and North America. I was uneasy about what I had seen, and became more irritable when the organisers announced a surprise guest, Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League.

It is not that I doubt the sincerity of his conversion from extremist politics. Even if I did, I think the moderate Muslim Quilliam Foundation did a superb job when it spirited him away and left the EDL leaderless. As I stared at him, I noticed another reason to stop worrying. Robinson is now a shrunken figure. You take notice of men like him when they lead violent or potentially violent movements. Once the threat of violence has gone, there is not much left to them. The gangster in the dock, the fallen dictator, or the one time extremist leader plodding round the lecture circuit look feeble and ridiculous. 'How could we have wasted so much time on them?' we say to ourselves.

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