Ah, the impatience of youth. Some aren’t even bothering to wait until middle-age before becoming conservative. That’s one of the takeaways from this month’s European elections and one worth bearing in mind this weekend during the first round of the French parliamentary election in which large numbers of young French people will vote for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (NR).

The adage, “If you aren’t a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a middle-aged conservative, you have no head”, is attributed to, among others, Burke, Disraeli, Churchill, and King Oscar II of Sweden. On the grounds that he has few other memorable quotes perhaps this one should go to the Swede.

In the EU elections in Poland, 30 per cent of voters under 30 went for the hard-right Confederation Party, an 18 per cent increase from 2019. In Germany, the hard-right AfD tripled its share of the under 25 votes to 16 per cent, and, in France, Le Pen’s NR party gained 30 per cent of the youth vote – a 10-point rise from 2019. There was an increase in young people voting right wing in Austria, Spain, Portugal, Finland and the Netherlands.

This surge in support from younger people is noticeable in recent national elections as well. In the Netherlands, the victory of Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration Freedom Party was helped by 17 per cent support of people under 34 – more than double the previous election. In Portugal, the Chega! (Enough!) party went from 12 seats to 50, boosted by 25 per cent of the 18-34 age group. This month it won two seats in the EU Parliament.

In Spain, there’s a new kid in town: 34-year-old Luis Pérez Fernández, better known as Alvise. His anti-immigration group Se Acabo la Fiesta (The Party’s Over) won three seats. Alvise who, according to El Pais once worked for the Liberal Democrats in the UK, wants to build Europe’s largest prison. He says “Even a person who has a gang tattoo: you’re going to f**king jail. If we have to put 40,000 guys in there, we will… and if the UN shows up, I’ll laugh in their face”. As far as is known, this is not a traditional Liberal Democrat policy but he’s moved a long way since moving back to Spain.

Alvise receives hardly any coverage from traditional media – and that’s part of the explanation of why he, and others like him across the continent, are getting traction. His Instagram profile and Telegram channel each have more followers/members than any political party in the country. It’s a similar story in Germany where the AfD TikTok feed reaches as many young Germans as all the other parties combined.

The hard right and hard left parties have been much quicker to understand that young people increasingly get what political knowledge they have from social media. They jumped onto platforms such as TikTok, Telegram and Instagram before many senior people in the established political scene even knew such things existed. Now establishment parties are playing catch up and trying to reach an audience they don’t understand, and which doesn’t trust their “same old-same old” politics.