No. Extinction does not beckon, but they are buckling under the political equivalent of front-loaded austerity. If last night was "peak UKIP", then 2015 is likely to be "trough LibDem". Forget about plots and rumours of leadership plots, nice guy Nick will be leading the yellow party into next year's general election. As previous rumbles and grumbles have shown, Clegg's grip on his parliamentary troops is impressive - Dave must envy the discipline of PLDP. "Left" pressure coming from Simon Hughes, Tim Farron and the recently re-principled Sarah Teather haven't caused him headaches worthy of the name. And, because their stock is so low, the Lord Rennard scandal scandal has barely touched them. Who notices a bit more mud when you're covered already in swill? LibDem ministers also like their cars and offices, and those who'd resigned their Parliamentary careers to a lifetime of opposition are enjoying the novelty of policy influence - an illusion that rubs off on layers of their beleaguered, traumatised membership. It will be an age if the LibDems ever get a look-in at government again, so best enjoy it while it lasts.
Their plummeting fortunes, however, are not a result of being in government per se. Had the arithmetic stacked up differently and the LibDems and Labour had gone in together in 2010, I can't help but think the damage to them wouldn't be anywhere near as bad. They have effectively acted as the Tories' meat shield. Their body politic is riddled with bullets as they betrayed the social liberalism assiduously cultivated from Paddy Ashdown on - tuition fees, bedroom tax, work capability assessments, the backdoor privatisation of the NHS, tax cuts for the very rich. It's the sidebar of policy shame. It's what happens if you promise one thing to the electorate, and do the opposite in power.
Where then do the LibDems go from here? Some hold out the hope that their reduced Westminster posse could hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament. That's possible, but with Ed Miliband nor Dave wanting to run another coalition, you can rule out high office. More likely, in my opinion, is the party looking at the blood price paid for five years of government and concluding they cannot carry on as they are. Returning to their all-things-to-all-people leftish liberalism holds the promise of rebuilding, of repeating all the patient, local work done over the last 20 years and getting the rewards for it. This will be much easier if next year's election takes out LibDem ministers and reduces them even further. On the other hand, assuming Labour wins on its equality ticket the LibDems may find it difficult to outflank them from the left. But as things stand, returning to their old comfort zone is the only viable option.