Pressure Groups (UK Politics)

Political scientists tend to use different words to classify the various types of pressure group. Some will call them 'interest groups' instead. There are different names, such as:

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Names of Pressure Groups

  • Promotional groups
  • Peak associations
  • Episodic groups
  • 'Fire brigade' groups
  • Single/Multi - cause groups
  • Protective Groups
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Insider Groups

These are pressure groups which the government sees as respectable and responsible. Insider groups are usually given direct and frequent access to ministers and their departments. If a new law or major new policy is being considred by a government, the insider group would expect to be consulted by government  and have its views taken very serioiusly. They usually give specialist advice to government, have the confidence of the public and government, and are reluctant to go against the main policies and stratergies of the government. They are more likely to compromise with government in order to retain their insider status.

Examples include: the British Medical Association, the Police Federation, and the National Farmers' Union.

There can be risks to the democratic process if a government allows too much insider status to a pressure group. Some people argue that the interest of patients and taxpayers might be neglected if, for example, the British Medical Association gets too close to the government.

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Outsider Groups

These are groups that do not wish to be too closely assocaited with the government, are unable to gain any formal recognition from government, or are advocating a policy which strongly conflicts with government policy.

Examples of Outsider pressure groups are the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Prison Reform Trust.

Some outsider groups would like to have more influence, such as the Terence Higgins Trust, which helps those with AIDS. Other outsider groups, such as the Prison Reform Trust, might like to have more influence, but as they represent a group (current and former prisoners) with which the public and government do not have much sympathy, they are likely to be kept as outsiders.

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Sectional Groups

These represent a particular section of society, such as motor manufacturers, teachers, lawyers or patients. They aim to look after the intersts of that particular group and perhaps stop things happening to that particular group which might harm their intersts. For example, the Patients' Association objected to the removal of a patient's right to see their medical records or the discontinuation of the requirement for GPs to provide an out-of-hours service. Sectional groups will also try to make things happen which will benefit their group, such as maintaining a good pension scheme for postal workers (Communication Workers Union).

Examples include:

  • the Law Society/the Bar Council (lawyers)
  • the British Medical Association (doctors)
  • the National Union of Students
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Cause or promotional groups

There are two main types of cause or promotional group. One is a group set up to achieve a single linited objective, such as to stop a third runway being built at Heathrow. The other has a broader and more long - term objective, such as the Child Poverty Action Group, which campaigns to end child poverty.

Examples include:  Greenpeace   Fathers4Justice

While some of these groups can bring wide - ranging benefits, such as the NSPCC, some would argue that other can be selfish and unaware of wider issues. Those who want another runway at Heathrow, for example, argue that it would help employment, business and tourism.

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