Pressure Group Power (4b)

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Objectives and Methods of Pressure Groups

Nature of pressure group activity is greatly dependent upon the scope and extent of group aims and objectives.

Those groups whose aims are local and limited in scale may be able to achieve their goals without ever needing to lobby at Westminster. Broader-based environmental groups e.g. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth will, in contrast, need to work at local, national and supranational level in order to achieve their core aims. 


  • Letter writing campaigns and petitions - show level of support from public 

e.g. Amnesty International

e.g. LIFE (anti-abortion) - petition of more than 2 million names in mid 1980s and employed  postcard campaigns in 1989 and 1990 in opposition to the bill which ultimately became the HEFA (1990) 

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Objectives and Methods of Pressure Groups (2)

2. Lobbying 

May write to a government minister 

In modern era - become more common to employ lobbying firms that will, for a fee, direct professional lobbyists to use their contacts on behalf of the pressure group in question

e.g. Snowdorp Campaign to control guns after Dunblane Massacre

e.g. Confederation of British Industry  (deliver results for businesses by lobbying) 

3. Influencing the Legislative process directly 

Core insider groups e.g. NUF 

Ability to influence formation of policy at an early stage through consultation with Ministers, civil servants and government -appointed bodies working on legislative proposals.

May sit on advisory and politcal committess e.g. British Medical Association 

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Objectives and Methods of Pressure Groups (3)

4. Embarking on legal action 

Litigation can be an effective, if expensive pressure group tactic 

Can work on 4 levels: 

  • Court finds government has acted beyond its authority (ultra vires)
  • Where rules appear to violate EU law 
  • Act of Parliament or act of a public official is deemed incompatible with Human Rights Act 1998
  • Litigation raises public awareness of a particular issue irrespective of outcome of case e.g. Pro-Life Alliance's challenges over the ap
  • plication of the HFEA 1990 

5. Working through a political party 

Easiest when party is in opposition 

e.g. Anti-fox hunting groups and those in favour of wholesale constitutional reform established links with Labour between 1979 and 1997

Difficult when party is in government - far greater demands on time and policy making process is necessarily more 'top-down' 

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Objectives and Methods of Pressure Groups (4)

6. Direct Action (Publicity Stunts)

Includes those forms of political protests that move beyond traditional group methods

Often involving civil disobedience or illegality 

Attracts media attention, raises public awareness and forces politicians to sit up and listen

e.g. Peace protesters blocking Faslane nuclear base

e.g. Greenpeace - Obstructing whale ships 

e.g. Fathers For Justice 

Might appear impressive, rarely affect course of government policy e.g. Nationwide fuel protests in 2000 - government chose to speak to Road Haulier's Association rather than those blockading refineries and bringing motorways to a standstill

7. Organising Campaigns

Leaflets, websites, public meetings 

e.g. Justice for Ghurkas 

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Define Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience 

Act of refusing certain orders given by the state, without resorting to physical violence.

E.g. Campaign against the poll tax saw widespread civil disobedience

1000s refused to register for the tax

others refused to pay and then failed to attend court when issued with a summons

Many Anti-poll Tax Unions used non-violent protests

Scale of disobedience made it impossible for courts to process all the cases arising. 

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