IT is unfortunate that a country which has given the world geniuses like Shakespeare, Newton and Darwin should have the bulldog as its national symbol.
That particular canine may have a reputation for belligerence but, embarrassingly for Britain, it is also well-known for being the third most stupid breed of dog.
Perhaps it was with this in mind that backbench Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell last Wednesday urged the Prime Minister to display “bulldog spirit” in negotiations with other European Union (EU) leaders the following day.
David Cameron is very far from a stupid man. But in his dealings with the EU in the last week, he has behaved in a manner worthy of a bulldog’s intelligence.
Much has been made of the “British veto” which the Prime Minister supposedly deployed in the early hours of Friday morning during talks about the EU’s economic future.
But a veto stops something from happening. It’s a full stop, not a comma.
Mr Cameron’s veto – deployed to protect the City of London from regulation – will not stop these new rules coming into force.
It is true that the Prime Minister has prevented a new EU treaty, since this requires the backing of all 27 members. But the regulation of financial trading which the French and Germans want can still go ahead by qualified majority voting.
In other words, if Britain really wants to stop new rules being imposed on its financial services, it needs allies. And these seem a little thin on the ground at the minute.
But it’s not just the decision which was stupid, it was the logic behind it.
Mr Cameron refused to back a new treaty because he wanted to stop new rules being imposed which would have prevented banks taking high risks.
On Monday, in an example of cruel timing, the Financial Services Authority announced that no-one from RBS would be prosecuted for the near collapse of the bank three years ago, which had forced the Government to step in with a £45bn bailout.
It’s easy to get upset by that, but it appears that bankers did not break any laws as they ran their company against the rocks – something which says as much about the law as it does about the management of RBS.
In this context, it’s a brave man who argues that Britain’s primary economic priority is to ensure the banks don’t face any new regulation.
Mr Cameron has effectively said that, whatever else happens, Johnny Foreigner must not be allowed to get between the alcoholic and his vodka bottle.
Of course, that’s not quite how the Prime Minister portrayed it. Instead he spoke of acting in “the national interest”.
But he seems to be referring to a very small nation which is confined to a couple of square miles in the centre of London.
Much is made about the importance of financial services to the country, yet it generates only 9% of national wealth, despite having been the spoilt child of the British economy for decades.
Manufacturing still brings in more money for the country, despite having been on the naughty step for the last 30 years.
But can anyone honestly imagine Mr Cameron alienating the rest of the EU to protect manufacturing? Only the City has such an iron grip on Westminster politicians.
And I include Labour in that. Her Majesty’s Opposition had great fun in Parliament on Monday mocking Mr Cameron as a poor negotiator.
But when the guffaws died down, Labour leader Ed Miliband was left to admit that he disagreed with the tactics but not the principle. God forbid that the City should lose faith in a man who wants to be Prime Minister one day.
Last, and by all means least, we come to the Lib Dems who – I think even they would agree – are not having a good crisis.
On Friday Nick Clegg reacted to the summit breakdown by expressing “regret” that Britain’s “modest and reasonable” demands had not been met.
But by Sunday, the Lib Dem leader had decided he was actually quite cross about the whole thing, saying he was “bitterly disappointed” and that Britain could become an isolated “pygmy”.
By the following day the Deputy Prime Minister had become so incandescent with rage that he couldn’t even bear to sit in the House of Commons while Mr Cameron explained his actions.
Downing Street insiders are yet to update us on the exact location of Mr Clegg’s toys, but it is understood that they may now be some distance from his pram.
However, it’s no good having a delayed hissy fit. If the Lib Dems were going to speak out against Mr Cameron, they should have done it right away.
Holding back for a day or two was a very stupid thing to do, as it robbed them of any credibility later on.
In fact, you could say that the Lib Dems were displaying that famous bulldog spirit we’ve been hearing so much about.