Progressive politicians will not win the right to run the country again until they learn to stop hectoring the electorate

(Photo: Parliament Live)

We on the progressive wing of politics – liberal, left and Remainers – are still feeling pretty battered and bruised by December's election result. I am thankful and relieved to have been re-elected, and want to give a kind and friendly welcome to those new Parliamentarians to the green benches, but I feel hugely sad for all those who lost their seats.

The brutality of politics was evident in the boxes stacked along the Westminster corridors, where offices were hurriedly cleared out before security passes were cancelled, often after many years of faithful occupancy.

Why did we fail so badly? Beyond the Labour Party post mortem on the cons and cons of Jeremy Corbyn, I think that those who call themselves 'progressives' have become far too focused on feeling good about having the 'correct' ideology.

We talked about the importance of being European, enlightened and progressive. We paraded our certainty in having a superior and worthier outlook than those on the right, when we would have connected better with our fellow citizens by emphasising the practical and patriotic reasons why staying in the EU would be good for families and the UK.

We failed to understand the appeal of the flag waving, emotional, populist politics of the right, and instead sneered at those who did not hold the 'correct views'. But our version of identity politics alienated many. It simply made us look like we disapproved of most of the country.

Emily Thornberry may not have told a fellow MP that their constituents were more stupid than hers, but she did previously resign from Labour's front bench in 2014 after a mocking tweet of a picture of a white van outside a house bedecked with St George's flags.

So, bluntly, we should not expect people to vote for us if it looks as if we dislike them and look down on them. We should not be cross at Johnson and Cummings for taking advantage of this attitude. We gave them an open goal and they simply tapped the ball in.

Actually I don't buy the idea that there is a liberal elite. If there is, there is a much larger conservative reactionary elite; but to many in the country, the right wing section of this elite somehow seems more 'authentic'. That's all bogus of course, but to quote George Burns, if you can fake sincerity, you've got it made.

But I don't want us to fake it. I want us to stop hectoring the country, to love our country, warts and all.

My own patch in Westmorland bucked the trend. On the national swing I should have been toast, but we won. How did we win? Well, it wasn't carefully crafted or contrived, but we talked about the issues that were actually relevant to people's lives in our area.

Over many years we cared for them, and we have affection for the communities we seek to represent, and it showed. We haven't faked this affection. It is real, and it allows us to reach out to people who think very differently to us politically, theologically and philosophically.

This post-election reflection period is a pivotal moment for the winners and the losers. Those who won should not be triumphalist in their victory, and further widen the divisions in our society. And those who lost need to understand what aspects of our approach we need to change, and to let go of any bitterness.

Let us continue to stand up for what we believe in, and to continue to campaign for it. But let us also learn how to disagree well with others and not berate them for not thinking exactly as we do.

We must accept that our national culture is not everything we would want it to be and that not everyone in our country buys into the world view that we hold.  We will never win the right to run the country until we learn to love its people and seek first to understand.

Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and former leader of the Liberal Democrats.