Populist politics is back with a bang. In Germany, the hard right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has crashed into the Bundestag. On a pan-European scale, the saving grace may well be that this happened just at the moment when its sister party in France, the Front National, flops into the dustbin of history.

In Italy, 80-year-old Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, business tycoon and right-wing populist, has slimmed down to 72 kg. There isn't a line on his face and his teeth are whiter than the top of Mont Blanc.

To Berlusconi, appearances matter greatly, even as he is polishing his populist pitch to take on the even more populist Five-Star movement in elections that are likely to be held early in 2018.