Oh golly gosh indeed. The point wasn't really anything to do with the voting system but more that hardly anyone is going to vote for the Lib Dems at the next election.
But that's not a reason to not vote against FPTP. We should have six Green MPs, but we have one. Had we got six, perhaps the Greens would have fielded more candidates next time round, reopening the battle for the left in the UK. Hell, the BNP should currently have ten or more MPs, and I'd have welcomed that, partly because it would have reflected what the voters voted for, but also because it would have doomed that party into obscurity when its MPs did absolutely fuck-all for five years.
FPTP is a vote for 1800s-style reactionary politics and cementing a two-party system, where we bounce back and forth every few terms, and get radical overhauls to things that don't need overhauling, because the 'new' party feels the need to do stuff, to show how great it is. On the world stage, the UK looks desperately outdated and depressingly rigid and inflexible from a political standpoint, with 'strong' government instead of debate and some actual democracy and widespread representation. (That's not to say coalition is always the best way, but it does at least often lead to compromise and more people's views being taken into account regarding policy.)
Sticking to their principles would have seen them gain a lot of supporters rather than lose them
Thing is, ever since the coalition, the right-wing press has done everything it can to kill the Lib Dems (under the misguided assumption that a snap election would return a Tory majority—perhaps true initially, but that's certainly not the case now). The worst of this was Cable, who was certainly naïve and stupid with his comments and openness of opinion, but was fully against the Murdoch Sky takeover, which now sails through under the wing of an of-course-not-at-all-biased Tory. (The worst from the country's standpoint was probably David Laws's resignation. He fucked up, but he was also precisely the right person for the position, and his being kicked out of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury position was a big blow to the UK. Danny Alexander? Pfft.)
Still, you're right in that the Libs desperately need to show some backbone, to stop themselves being cast adrift entirely in 2015. At the rate they're going, it'll be back to 1992 levels (20 seats), if they're lucky. I'm guessing they'll maybe get 15. Mind you, the Tories continue to pull an amazing piece of PR. They do something shit and everyone blames the Lib Dems. The Tories must be pissing themselves about this—although with Labour's resurgence, the Tories should be mindful that in 2015 a demolished Lib Dem partner may mean they all lose.
I don't believe there's anything the Lib Dems could possibly have done to come out of this any better. By forming a coalition with Labour, they'd have been accused of perverting democracy by allowing the 'losing' party to remain in power.
The point there is that option didn't even exist. Too many Labour MPs were against coalition, and the majority as it stood probably wouldn't have been stable enough. The idea of a 'rainbow coalition' existing purely for voting reform was nice in theory, but the country had more pressing problems—and without firm resolutions from all parties, there was no way forward.
By not forming a coalition with either, they'd have been accused of allowing their inaction to prevent the formation of any kind of strong government in this country. They were fucked before the election even happened.
Agreed on both counts. The other major problem was either the polling at the time was bollocks or people were flat-out lying regarding their voting intentions. It's clear that on the day there was a pretty big swing from Lib to Con. That meant the Lib's maintained their share of the vote from the largely 'protest' cut in 2005, but the polling suggested it'd be higher. That coupled with FPTP meant that the Libs got utterly fucked in every possible way. That a party can get a larger share of the vote and lose
seats, and end up with 57 seats when it should have had well over 140... No matter how you feel about the Liberal Democrats and the state of British politics, that
is precisely why we need to take FPTP out back and shoot it.
If anyone's interested, here's the comparison I made at the time regarding what we voted for and what we got (approximated, with 'what we voted for' based on true PR):
And, yeah, I'd also back PR giving us 20 UKIP MPs, because despite the fact UKIP are a bunch of arseholes, enough people voted for them that they should be represented.