Nature of Pressure Groups
Definition/nature of pressure groups:
- Assosiation of people who share the same interests.
- Seek to defend or further the interests of a section of society, or to promote a cause.
- Don't seek to gain power, but influence it.
- Try to mobilise as much support as possible to further their goals.
Insider Pressure Groups.
Have special connections with government. They have direct-access to decision makers and are involved in policy development. Characteristics and Methods:
- Regularly consulted by minisers, civil servants & policy advisors
- Often consulted by Parliamentary committees
- Have representitives sitting on policy and advisory committees - BMA (British Medical Assosiation sit on the committee for health.
- Those concerned with Europe have access to European Comission and EU Parliament.
- Regional groups have devolved administrations - MIND works with the NHS and other authorities nationally to improve policies on mental health.
- Local Pressure groups have local authorities - E.g. Great Dalby Wind Farm protesters were protesting against the local Melton Borough Council.
Outsider Pressure Groups.
Don't have direct access to government but they operate by mobilising public support and putting pressure on decision makers by demonstrating their support. Their characteristics/methods:
- Mobilise public support - Jamie Oliver was used in his School Dinners campaign to gain support for his cause.
- Use direct action such as street demonstrations or civil disobedience - Greenpeace Scaled the shard in 2013 protesting against oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic ocean.
- Seek to use media campaigns - PETA used model Naomi Campbell to protest against animal furs being used by a TV advert using well known models to influence the public and the industry.
- They increasingly use the internet and social networks to build up support - 'Kick it Out' campaign against racism have developed a phone App in order to report and promote their cause of racism in football.
- Use e-petitions - Migration watch UK's online petition urging ministers to curb immigration gained more than 100,000 signatures in a week - making it eligible for a Commons debate
How do Pressure Groups and Parties Differ?
Main Distinctions between pressure groups and political parties:
What is pluralism?
- Any situation where a variety of ideas/groups can flourish together - 55% per cent of residents in Luton are non-white British so many cultures can flourish.
- Power within a political system is widely dispersed and not concentrated in a few hands - Welsh and Scottish Devolution means its less centralised. Also PG membershis are increasing therefore have influence - RSPB 1 million members.
- Society as a whole alllows a variety of beliefs, cultures, lifestyles and ethnic groups to exist together and be tolerated - Leicester ran for City of Culture 2013 showing many cultures are accepted. However no other reigion tha christian in HOL.
- A pluralist democracy recognises the rights of different groups to have influence/ have equal treatment - acts of parliament were made so nobody is above the law (Rule of law) Equality Act 2010 legally protects from discrimination in the workplace.
What is elitism?
- There is a concentration of political, social or economic power within a few hands - Parliament is where power lies in Uk, only 147 women so not representitive of society. However power lies with electorate at election time.
- Small number of individuals or bodies hold most of the availiable power - Nick Clegg and Dabid Cameron hold the power and were educated at Eton so select individuals hold power.
- Implies that most groups in society are denied power - usually a 2 party system, as Lib Dems hadnt been in power since 1906 before 2010 coalition.
Pluralism, elitism and pressure groups
Pressure Groups enhance pluralism:
- Allow a wider spectrum of people to be involved in political decisions, e.g. PG memberships are on the rise, whereas only 300,000 party memberships, but RSPB alone has over 1 million members.
- Sectional groups represent a section of society. E.g. woman's equality pressure groups Fawcett society represents rights for women of ethnic minorities.
- Act as a check on government power. Use thr media to publicise issues, e.g. Countryside Alliance campaign for protection of fox hunting organised a 400,000 march outside parliament to protest, drawing media attention.
Pressure Groups enhance Elitism:
- Can enhance elitism as powerful, wealthy pressure groups can concentrate their power in the hands of a select few - Confederation of British Industry has eceonomic pwoer unlike small outisder groups such as PETA.
- Insider groups restrict the dispersion of power as they cannot act outside the law - unlike Greenpeae who scaled the shard in 2013.
- Some pressure groups may be lead by unnaccountable elites - e.g. British Bar Assosiation is lead by elites in their field yet they are not accountable but have huge wealth/influence.
Why are pressure groups becoming more important?
- Membership of parties is declining.
- Electorate is better informed and more able to become involved in political issues.
- Internet and social media have made it more practisable to mount campaigns and initiate new associations.
- Prressure Group numbers and memberships have increased
- Society has become more pluralistic and fragmented into groups which is reflected in interest groups.
- Political system is now more accessible to group activity, there are more points of access and politicians are more sentitive to public opinion.
Methods used by pressure groups
- Lobbying - put pressure directly on the poeple they are trying to influence to try and enforce their views upon them, e.g.g Countryside Alliance organised a march of 400,000 to protest.
- Organise Mass Demonstrations - Gain publicity by shocking society due to scale of demonstration e.g.. Campo (Occupy Movement) demonstartion in 2011 against capitalism.
- Media - use media campaigns to raise awareness nationally, e.g.g Naomi Campbell starred as a model for the PETA against animal fur, lead to many people signing petition to stop Burberry using animal fur.
- Civil Disobedience - Outsiders need to attract publicity e.g. Greenpeace scaled from Shard in 2013.
- E petitions - Gets people involved and if signatures reach 30,000 it has to be discussed in parliament - e.g. the petition to stop mass immmigration from Bulgarian/Romanians in 2014 reached 150,000 signatures.
- Sitting on Committees - At committee stage the Bill can be ammended so you dont oppose it e.g. CBI have economic power as they sit on committees.
- Celebrity endorsement - Riase awaress and capture the publics interest and support e.g. Stephen Fry is a spokesperson for MIND and Gay Pride to raise awareness, worked as now gay marriage is legalised.
Why are some pressure groups more Successful?
Resources - financial and organisational giving group ability to have major campaign, Countryside Alliance, Anti-fox hunting legislation was watered down in 2004.
Inside Status - Can directly influence those in power, ASH campaign lead to Public smoking ban in 2007 and smoking in cars ban in 2014.
Tactics - Kick it Out Campaign used celeb backing and merch as well as getting involved in schools. Now teams wear a specific Kick it Out Shirt for certain football matches.
Sharing Gov adgenda - helps campaigners as CB welcomed a business friendly government - Secured a committment by government to reduce corperation tax on company profits by 14% over 4 years.
Lack of opposition - NSPCC has no opposition to challenge their policies, e.g. 'childline' was implemented and suported by gov.
Celebrity involvememt - Public fugures attract public attention, Justice for Gurkhas campaign backed by Joanna Lumley - meant gov were forced in 2009 to reverse its policies denying Gurkhas the right to stay in the UK.
Size - many groups have a larger public support and influence - RSPB over 1 million members.
Ways Pressure groups enhance democracy?
- Represent groups that are ignored by political parties - Fawcett socity represents women of BME that are under represented in the HOC.
- Disperse power more widely
- Educate and inform public of issues - Cancer Research
- Help governing process by providing informed advice.
- Act as a control on gov power.
- Provide opportunities for political participation.
- Provide an outlet for public grievances.
Do not support democracy:
- Undermine authority of elected officials.
- Can be seen as representing the 'politics of self interest' and may present the public with bias/false info.
- Too powerful groups may lead to hyper-pluralism which can gridlock gov due to them being too obstructive.
- PG's are not legitimate and non elected.
- Encourage civil disobedience and threaten order in society therefore also democracy.
- Wealthy/influential groups may have more influence than can be justified.
- Leadership if elitist groups may not reflect accurately the views of membership.