Pressure Groups

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  • Definitions
    • Trustee model: The Burkean model of representation provided for in a representative democracy. Politicians return to office on the understanding that they are free to use their judgements in the interest of their constituents and the nation as a whole
    • New pressure group politics: characterising the rise of more loosely organised social movements, protest movements, direct action campaigns and grassroots activities.
    • Single- issue group: A pressure group or protest movement that focuses on  a single issue e.g. the Snowdrop Campaign
    • Pressure group: A group of like minded individuals who come together on the basis of shared interests or a commonly held cause in order to put pressure on policy-makers at Westminster and beyond
  • Problems with insider/outsider typology
    • Addresses some problems inherent in catagorising pressure groups by aims
    • More useful in assessing likelihood of a group achieving its central aims
    • Ignores the fact that groups can act as both
    • Groups can very quickly move between the two
      • Political cause group Charter 88 was clearly outside the political loop before 1997 G.E, but assume more influence following Labours victory
      • NFU held long-term core insider status that came under threat as a result of growing EU control over agricultural policy and a period of 13 years when C was out of office
    • Might be more appropriate to divide insider groups into 'high-profile' and 'low profile'
      • 'Captive' or 'prisoner' groups: Groups that are dependent on government, either because they benefit from state funding or because the government polayed a part in their creation
        • Equality and Human Rights Commission was established under the Equality Act (2006)
    • Insider
      • Regular contact with decision makers
      • Generally work behind the scenes rather than engaging in high-profile publicity stunts that could embarrass the government and threaten the group's privileged status
      • Tend to have mainstream goals
      • Core insiders: Groups that work closely with government and are consulted regularly across a broad range of policy areas
      • Specialist insiders: Groups with which the government consults across only a narrow range of policies
      • Peripheral insiders: Groups whose areas of expertise or interest are so narrow that government would only rarely consult them
    • Outsider
      • Do not have regular contact with decision makers
      • Are often forced to engage in publicity stunts as a means of moving their cause or interest up the political agenda
      • Often campaign in issues that provoke controversy
      • Work outside 'political loop'
      • Potential insiders: gropus that might ultimately achieve insider status but are currently lacking in terms of support and/or experience. Governments may be reluctant to grant such groups insider status as they lack legitimacy
      • Outsiders by necessity: Groups that are forced to operate as outsider groups as a result of there being no realistic prospect of regular consultation with government - whether because of the group's core aims or its chosen methods
        • Fathers4Justice
      • Ideological outsiders: Groups that look to avoid establishing close working relationships with government for ideological reasons
        • Amnesty International must avoid becoming too closely associate with any national government if it is to preserve its reputation for impartiality
  • Methods
    • Traditional
      • still favoured by many groups
      • letter writing, lobbying, petitions, public demonstrations
      • Anti-abortion organisation 'Life' compiled a petition of more than 2 million names in mid 1980's and employed post-card campaigns in 1989 and 1990 in opposition to the bill which ultimately became the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990)
      • Lobbying group Ian Greer Associates arranged initial contact between Mohamed Al Fayed and then Tory MP & junior trade minister Neil Hamilton- an association that was at the heard oof the 'cash for questions scandal'
      • Feb 2003, 1 million took to the streets in the 'Stop the War Coaltion's' efforts to persuade the government not to deploy UK forces in Iraq
    • Influencing legislative process
      • Core insider groups have ability to influence the formation of policy at an early stage through consultation with ministers, civil servants, and government-appointed bodies working on legislative proposals
      • many larger groups employ lobbyists to pursue their legislative goals, some maintain permanent Westminster offices
      • NFU have passed a resolution following an 'overwhelming vote' to back staying in the EU
      • Snowdrop Campaign supported by Daily mail after Dunblane Massacre, lead to stricter gun control in the Firearm Act 1997
      • Campaign by Jamie Oliver, the NUT and BMA which led to the Education (Nutritional Standards for School Dinners) Regulations 2006
    • Legal Action
      • Where a court finds the government has acted beyond its authority (ultra vires)
      • Where the rules in place appear to violate EU law
      • Where an A.o.P or action of a public official is deemed incompatible with the HRA
      • Where litigation raises public awareness of a particular issue irrespective of the outcome of the case
      • Along with the Rainbow Project, an activist group, A.I pan to take legal action against the NI Government "on the basis of inferior treatment of same sex couples in NI with regards to the right to marry and found a family"
      • 14th October 2013 --> Greenpeace launched a legal challenge to fracking in England
    • Working through a political party
      • The easiest time for a pressure group to gain a foothold within parties is when they are in opposition
      • Establishing links and relationships when a party is in government is far harder, as they are more likely to be subject to far greater demands and the policy making process is necessarily more 'top-down'
      • Anti-fox hunting groups and those favouring wholesale constitutional reform established links with the Labour Party between 1979 and 1997
    • Direct Action
      • Increasingly popular
      • Starts from premise that conventional methods are flawed and that more visible and direct protests may offer the best opportunity for success because they attract media attention, raise public awareness and force the attention of politicians
      • Often outsider groups use direct action due to its more controversial methods
      • 8 Greenpeace activists climbed London monuments and put white gas masks on them regarding the high levels of air pollution in the UK (18/4/16)
      • Two men from 'Fathers4Justice' climbed Boris Johnsons house, hanging banners and shouting through a microphone about the 'war on dads' (18/4/16)
    • Managing the Media
      • Greenpeace 'KitKat Campaign' advert gained over 1.5 million views, and make a large impact in getting Nestle to agree to their campaign demands
      • Both paid and unpaid
      • NSPCC made full of of TV ads for their 'full stop' campaign
      • Increasingly used
    • Local level
      • may seek to influence local council decisions on a variety of specifically local issues e.g. whether to license the building of new supermarket brances
      • NIMBY pressure groups campaign at local level to prevent the building of institutions such as prisons, asylum seekers' detention centers and drug rehabilitation units in their local area
    • Devolved level
      • Devolution created new opportunities
      • Number and range of Scottish pressure groups has increased significantly
      • Several UK groups have separate Scottish branches to lobby effectively
      • In 2008, Kenny Shand raised a petition in the Scottish Parliament, with the Disabled Person's Parking Places (Scotland) Act becoming law on October 1st 2009
  • Pressure groups and the EU
    • Increasingly look to organise and lobby at EU level
    • European Communities Act 1972 --> EU law takes precedence over British law when two are in conflict
      • Pressure groups can therefor lobby in a effort to enforce to force change on their national governments by, in effect, 'going over their heads' to the EU
    • Particularly likely when:
      • Their sectional interest or cause is supranational
      • They are faced with a national government that is unsympathetic to their cause
    • Since 1986, decisions in Council of EU have been increasingly taken using QMV, meaning groups must build up a broader Europeans support, rather than simply lobbying their own national governments to block measures using their national veto.
    • Process of EU integration increases --> wider range of British pressure groups will turn to Europe
    • NFU has a permanent office in Brussels, but is also part of COPA-COGECA --> represents main agricultural organisations in EU
    • Establishing Eurogroups enables groups to have resources and legitimacy to have their views heard
    • Scale and complexity of EU allows numerous access points
      • European Commission has an appetite for information and recognises Eurogroups as a legigimate source  of information
      • Most successful groups are those which possess the material resources to taken advantage of such opportunities
  • Particularly likely when:
    • Their sectional interest or cause is supranational
    • They are faced with a national government that is unsympathetic to their cause
  • Factors affecting pressure group success
    • At a simple level, it is deemed a 'success' in terms of the degree to which it is able to achieve its central aims and objectives
    • Group resources
      • changes extent to which a group is able to campaign
      • while groups may be able to raise profile without acces to great material resources, such groups inevtiably rely on human resources
      • Material resources of Father4Justice were limited, but benefited from members who were prepared to risk personal injury in pursuit of their cause, and leader Matt O'Connor, who was articulate, presentable and familiar with the world of public relations
    • Group status
      • generally accepted that groups which have at least some contact with government behind the scenes are more likely to achieve some or all of their objectives than those who do not
    • Group methods
      • an inability to achieve insider status might force some groups into adopting more high-risk strategies as a means of attracting attention
      • Groups that employ extreme methods involving high-levels of violence and/or illegality are rarely successful
      • Successful groups are often characterised by the wide range of tactics they use
  • Pressure groups and Democracy
    • Have a central role in both the liberal and pluralist models of democracy
      • Freedom of speech
      • The right of assembly
      • The right to petition the government for redress of grievances
    • Often argued that the way in which certain groups operate does more to undermine than to enhance the political process as a whole
    • Reinforce inequalities
      • Groups representing business interests clearly have an advantage in open competition
        • Considerable more material resources and a significant financial incentive to lobby
        • Generally free from the problems associated with organising mass-membership cause groups
        • The government has a vested interest in listening to such groups,as its re-election will be based in part of delivering economic success
        • Most successful groups tend to be those that benefit from a highly skilled and articulate membership, and a sound financial base
        • Pressure groups representing middle-class interests are in a better position to compete
          • Serve to  reinforce rather than break down social inequalities
            • ELITISM
    • Strangle efficient government
      • many insider groups have been able to become an established element in the machinery of government , adding a further 'level' to the policy-making process
        • Groups such as RSPB work closely with government and are consulted across a range of policy areas at drafting stage
      • Whilst it serves to reduce liklihood of unforseen problems further down the road, it causes other groups to be excluded, undermining pluarlism
      • Governments must weigh up merits and demerits, pressure groups are generally concerned with a specific area
      • Governments seeking to deliver a 'joined-up' government are all too often forced to take a reactive stance when facing single-issue outsider campaigns, as opposed to being proactive in seeking to deliver on their manifesto
        • Pressure groups distort the decision-making process and make it harder for those in office to make difficult decisions
      • Particularly true for broad area of central government finance- try to increase government expenditure on their area, public sector spending and public sector borrowing
    • Internally undemocratic
      • Gives little real power to individual members or supporters
      • Growth of passive 'cheque-book'membership has implications on qualitiy of participation
      • Extent to which the level of internal democracy present in a group may have a bearing on its legitimacy
      • Some groups are clearly engaged in intense internal debate (RSPCA over fox-hunting), others tend to be more centralised (Greenpeace)
      • Pressure group officers are often appointed, instead of being elected by group members- leaders are not directly accountable to members
      • In many groups, key decisions are not taken by members but by a central committe or board which is itself unelected
      • Sectional groups e.g. trade unions have been forced to become more internally democratic e.g. reuiement to hold ballots before national strike action

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