Definition 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. 
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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. 
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Insider Pressure Groups.

Insider 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.
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Outsider Pressure Groups.

Oustider 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
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How do Pressure Groups and Parties Differ?

Main Distinctions between pressure groups and political parties: 

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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. 
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 
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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. 

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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. 
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