Pressure Groups

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what is a Pressure Group

A Pressure Group is a group of people who:

  • Aim to influence the policies and actions of the govt. 
  • They seek to exert influence from outside, rather than winning or exercising govt power. (external to the govt).
  • PGs usually have a narrow issue focus, or a single issue. 
    • E.g. Opposing a planned road development. 
  • Their members are united by either:
    • A shared belief in a particular cause. 
    • Or a common set of interests.
  • Thus, members who have different ideologies or party preferences, may work happily together in the same PG. 
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The nature of PGs

PGs high status usually depends on their success in the media, and the PG universe also includes:

  • Churches and charities. 
  • Businesses and trade organisations
  • Think tanks, who are formed to develop policy proposals and campaign. 

Some PGs engage with politics only as a secondary activity, such as:

  • The AA lobby govt over motoring taxes and road safety. 

PGs act as a channel between the govt and the people because:

  • They are a part of civil society.
  • They operate outside of govt control.
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Similarities between PGs and Political Parties

PGs and political parties are similar because:

  • Both PGs and political parties aim to have public support.
  • They both represent people in society.
  • PGs and political parties contribute to political participation. 
  • They contribute to the policy process and develops policies. 
  • They both use the media for influence and positive representation. 
  • PGs and political parties can put forward candidates for election. 
    • E.g. Legalise Cannabis Alliance put up 21 candiates in the 2005 elections.
  • Both have a form of formal organisation.
  • UKIP is a self styled political party who puts candidates forward for election, and has a single issue. 
  • The Green Party and Greenpeace are similar in their interests and causes.
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The differences between PGs and Political Parties

However, PGs and Political parties are different because:

  • Political parties seeks to gain power. PGs seek to influence those in power. 
  • Political parties have a broad range of political issues. PGs usually have 1 issue or a narrow range of issues to focus on.
  • Political parties have the responsibility of holding office. PGs do not have this responsibility. 
  • Political parties put forward candidates for election because they want to win power or govt. PGs put candidates forward for election usually to raise awareness and popularity. 
  • Political parties have a clear legal status and are held accountable. PGs are not held accountable to the people. 
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Reasons why it is difficult to distinguish between

It is difficult to distinguish between PGs and political parties because:

  • They may form part of larger social movements:
    • These are large groups of people who share beliefs, but have little organisation.
    • E.g. The Labour movement was encouraged by the Labour Party and trade unions. 
    • E.g.2 The Green Movement consists of both the Green Party and Greenpeace, along with other environmental PGs. 
  • They may use elections as a tactical weapons:
    • Any group that puts candidates forward for election, are seen as political parties. 
    • However political parties and PGs have different reasons for doing so.
    • E.g. the Legalise Cannabis Alliance put 21 candidates forward for the 2005 GE, but has since deregistered as a party.
  • They may have a narrow issue focus:
    • PGs usually have narrow issue focus, but some political parties do so aswell. 
    • E.g. The BNP is primarily concerned with race and immigration
    • E,g, 2 The Green Party places a greater emphasis on environmental issues, such as pollution and climate change. 
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Examples of PGs

Examples of PGs include:

  • Greenpeace campaigns to:
    • Stop fires in Indonesia, demands climate justice, save dugongs, stand up for human rights and fight for animals.
    • They do not accept govt or corporation funding. 
    • They want to create a peaceful and nuclear free world. 
  • Stop the War Coalition campaigns to:
    • Make war illegal, oppose racism and prevent and end wars in Afganistan, Iraq, Libya etc.
    • They also oppose the British establishment's disastrous addition to war and its squandering of public resources on miliatarism.
    • They formed after Bush announced 'War on terror'.
  • Father 4 Justice campaigns for:
    • Fathers' rights over their children. 
    • They sat on Harriet Harman's house as she questioned whether the 'presence of fathers in families is necessarily a means to social harmony and cohesion.'
  • Frack Off (opooses drilling for gas).
  • Plane Stupid (climate change activists).
  • UK Uncut (against capitalsim and profits and tax dodgers).
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