Show Hide image The Staggers 28 April 2015 What do other countries think about the general election? What do other countries make of Britain's elections? They're even less interested than you are. Print HTML Last week, I found myself chairing a discussion on whether or not the British election mattered, but with a difference: it was a panel made up entirely of foreigners,=, You know those interventions where someone's friends and family come and will explain how much they care about them? This was basically the exact opposite. With less than two weeks to polling day, it's striking how little of the election debate within Britain has focused on the outside world. Even on Europe, the focus has been more on Ukip itself than the broader issues. The rest of the world, meanwhile, has largely ignored the vote. If anything, it has garnered less attention than last year's Scottish independence vote. That might change, of course, but the bottom line seems to be that this particular election -- even with #kitchengate, #milifandom, the #Cameronettes and Farage -- is just not globally interesting. Particularly after the 2013 vote not to intervene militarily in Syria, Britain is just seen less relevant and less bothered. Each of the panellists on Wednesday had their own different reasons for explaining why it didn't matter. First up was Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, a former Indian security official. He had just returned from Washington DC and a string of meetings at the State Department, Pentagon and elsewhere. Had anyone asked him about the UK election there? No. Did India care either? Not really, he said. India's government was "ruthlessly pragmatic" in its relationships and Britain was no longer seen as a major strategic partner. Next up was Marina Prentoulis, lecturer at the University of East Anglia and London spokeswoman for the Greek ruling party Syriza. The Greeks didn't really care either, she said. Britain was seen outside the eurozone decision-making structures. And Ed Milliband was seen too soft for a Labour victory to be really seen part of a wider backlash against austerity. American political consultant Jennifer Brindisi gave a somewhat more nuanced answer. No, she said, most Americans did not care -- they were already too focused on next year's presidential vote and none of the British contenders had sufficient "rockstar" appeal (although it might have been different if David Milliband or Boris Johnson were on the ticket). Within the business community, however, had noticed. The Conservative EU referendum and Labour tax plans both worried them. On balance, she said, they preferred the idea of the Tories. On national security, Washington has expressed concern at UK defence spending dropping below two percent of GDP. And there's at least some interest in whether the UK keeps the Trident nuclear deterrent or not. Finally, US State Department media specialist Barakat Jassem summed up the mood in the Middle East. They really didn't care either, he said. That didn't mean there weren't some interesting broader lessons, the panel concluded. Indeed, British Nigerian writer Emmanuel Akinwotu said he thought this year’s election was amongst the most interesting in recent years, even if not as significant as 1997 or maybe even 2010. The increased support for unorthodox parties such as UKIP, the overall fatigue with mainstream politics, the growing polarisation and dispute between those who want greater regulation and tax and those who oppose it all have wider relevance. The problem with mainstream politics in Britain, Greece's Prentoulis said, was that they were striving for a centre ground that no longer existed. For what it's worth, I'm with Emmanuel -- this is an interesting election. And many of the issues Britain is battling with, not least the growing divide between the political and commercial centre of London and the rest of the country, do have much wider relevance. Britain may be a much reduced force on the world stage but ironically its capital city is at its most powerful in decades, the centre of a globalised trading system that it ultimately largely created. It also faces some interesting choices -- on Europe, obviously, even if the polls suggest the UK will stay. The return of an assertive Russia also raises some pressing defence questions, not least altering the debate on Trident. But whatever Britain chooses, the rest of the world will continue largely regardless. In Whitehall and to a lesser extent in Washington, officials and pundits now talk of a Britain that is "absent from the world". Frankly, it worries and upsets them. But as one British official put it, maybe that's just what the electorate wants. No one is hugely interested in domestic Dutch or Norwegian politics either and they are perfectly pleasant places to live. As Iraqi born Jassem said, there's a lot to be said for living in a non-newsworthy country. It's not surprising that the prime concern for most Britons are domestic. But a Britain that doesn’t want to be noticed is a very different kind of Britain. The discussion took place at the Project for the Study of the 21st Century, whose website is here. › To talk about race, we need to talk about the problem with “whiteness” Peter Apps is a Reuters correspondent currently on sabbatical as the safety director of the Project for Study of the 21st Century. Subscribe More Related articles Who "speaks for England" - and for that matter, what is "England"? Find the EU renegotiation demands dull? Me too – but they are important Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?