Pressure group methods

Different methods used by pressure groups.

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Seeking to influence the government directly

Pressure groups may try to get access to the key decision makers - the PM , cabinet ministers and civil servants - and argue their case directly.

Seeking to influence MPs

They may try to influence MPs either individually or collectively, or target members of specific standing or select committees or parties. A good example is when Charter88, a pressure group wanting major constitutional reform, targeted Labour MPs, candidates and party members in 1996-97 to get Constitutional reform into the 1997 Labour party manifesto. Another is Steel's Abortion Bill, legalising abortion, went through the committee stage in the House of Commons. Pressure groups ensured it was ammended so that Roman Catholic nurses and doctors were not compelled to undertake tasks they found morally repugnant. It was also a pressure group which persuaded David Steel to put forward the bill in the  first place. 

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Methods (continued)

Seeking to influence members of the House of Lords

This is particularly likely when the Lords are debating or revsing bills that have come up from the commons. The many financial benefits that organisations dealing with the housing of the elderly get are mainly due to an alliance of pressure groups (e.g. Help the Aged) persuading members of the House of Lords to make certain amendments to the Housing Finance Act, and then persuading the House of Commons to accept those ammendments.

Targeting Political Parties

Look at the number of pressure groups present at all major party conferences. Getting an issue onto a conference agenda, and possbily into a party's manifesto can be vital.

Targeting MEPs and the machinery of the EU

In areas such as agriculture and trade, where decisiona re made in Brussles, direct contact with the relevant Commission and MEPs can be very important. The decision making process in the EU is designed to be responsive to pressure groups.

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Methods (continued x2)

Seeking to influence key local offcials

These include planning officers and local councillers. With the low turnout in local elections, local councilers tend to be very responsive to pressure groups with which represent even a modest number of potential electors.

Launching a major media campaign

One example is the Snowdrop Campaign over the Dunblane massacre and gun control. Look also at the effect of the mass media on the fuel price protest in autumn 2000. Newspapers spend little on their own research and oare often willing to have stories written for them by pressure groups. 


Groups such as Greenpeace and animal rights groups use it extensively.

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Methods (continued x3)

Hiring professional lobbyists

These lobbyists specialise in influencing government. It is accepted that one of the reasons why the £5 billion pound contract to maintain the UK's nuclear submarines went to Devenport and not Rosyth in Scotland was the millions that Devenport spent in hiring a company specialising in pressurising government. There is often a concern because some of these organisations hire ex - ministers and former high - ranking military officers or civil servants, as they have the 'right' contacts.

Phone - ins and online petitions

Making effective use of modern technology is proving increasingly effective.

Legal methods of protest

These methods include marches and demonstrations, such as the Countryside Alliance demonstartion in London, and more forceful tactics, such as strikes and boycotts. There have been far fewer of the latter in recent years.

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Methods (continued x4)

Illegal Methods

Some pressure groups, such as several of the animal rights groups, use violence, civil disobedience and other illegal activities to further their cause.

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