Pressure Groups

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Pressure Group: organisation which campaigns to influence politics (for example the NSPCC campaigns to encourage the government and Parliament to introduce policies and pass laws to protect children). They differ from political parties as they only seek to influence, while parties aim to wield political power. They can be very small, such as a local conservation group with only a handful of members, or membership can be huge. The Unite Union is the largest trade union in the UK, with 1.4 million members.

Key Features:

·        Seek to exert influence from the inside, rather than win / exercise government power

·         Typically have a narrow issue focus (sometimes only oppose 1 issue)

  •  Members are united by either a shared belief in a certain cause or a common set of interests

Sectional / Interest Groups:

·Groups that represent a particular section of society

·         Concerned to protect / advance member’s interests

·         Closed membership (limited to people in a certain occupation for example)

·         Members motivated by self interest

·         Examples include: Taxpayers` Alliance, National Farmers Union, Unison, CBI

Cause / Issue / Promotional Groups:

·         Claim to represent whole communities

·         One issue / small cluster of issues to promote

·         Do not have specific membership, or, at most, only have a small number of activists

·         Can only be temporary

·         Examples include: Greenpeace, RSPB, Fathers4Justice, National Trust


·         Both sectional and promotional groups – an example being Transport 2000 which believes that better public transport affects everyone, but they also represent users of this transport

·         Groups performing services for members and campaign within the political system on their behalf (e.g. AA, trade unions, NSPCC etc.)

Grant put forward a new typology to describe pressure groups, rather than a focus on membership and aims, he looked at strategy and the response they get from government.

Insider Groups:

·         Pressure groups that operate inside the political system through contacts with ministers, MPs, peers and official committees – regularly consulted by the government – the British Medical Association is regularly consulted by the Department of Health

·         Three types of insider groups: core (CBI, National Farmers Union, BMA); specialist (British Poultry Meat Federation, World Wide Fund for Nature); Peripheral (Bingo Association of Great Britain, Tenant Farmers Association or Scottish Quality Trout Association)

·         Strategy: letter writing campaigns, peaceful negotiations, public demonstrations, mass media / public opinion campaigns

Gaining insider status:

·         Involves 2 decisions: 1) does the group want it? 2) will government grant it?

·         Some groups are more likely to gain it than others as objectives and methods are more suited to government

·         Not hard process, but some groups are more influential than others

·         Much harder for those representing socially excluded

  •          Need authority / information / public support / powerful sanctions / reliable track record for advice



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