- An organisation seeking to influence decision-makers in relation to a particular issue, or policy. Unlike political parties, pressure groups do not stand for elected office.
- A political system where a wide range of beliefs, ideologies and ideas is tolerated and allowed to flourish. It also implies a society where many different groups are active and free to operate.
Similarities with Parties
- Develop policies they hope to implement.
- Develop policies across a wide range of concerns.
- (PG) e.g. trade unions, Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
- Put candidates up for election.
- (PG) e.g. Right to Life, anti-European groups.
- Recognisable philosophy.
- (PG) e.g. UK Independence Party (UKIP), Referendum Party.
- Formal organisation.
- (PG) e.g. trade unions, CBI.
Differences with Parties
- Parties pursue governmental power.
- PGs influence.
- Parties put up candidates for office.
- Most PGs do not fight elections.
- Parties adopt policies covering all aspects of government responsibility.
- PGs have a narrow range of concerns.
- Parties must act responsibility and respect democratic process.
- PGs can use direct action e.g. fuel protects (Autumn 2000).
- Party financing is legally controlled.
- PGs no financial constraints.
Minor parties such as UKIP & the Green Party (started as pressure group) blur the distinction between a political party and a pressure group.
- Effective channels of communication between people and government.
- Provide opportunities for political participation by wide variety of people.
- Ensure minority interests are represented.
- Act as a control on power of the state.
- Provide opportunities for active citizenship.
- Help institutionalise peaceful conflict and so preventing disorder and instability.
- Act as vehicle for 'vested interests', promoting own welfare at the expense of the majority.
- Some wield disproportionate amount of influence, not justified by their size.
- May not be internally democratic, reflecting views of mass membership over small elites.
- Insider - close and regular contact with decision-makers, and government ministers e.g. National Farmers Union, who have always had a close working relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Sponsorship of MPs.
- Direct lobbying of ministers.
- Participation in official committees.
- Representation on quangos.
- Evidence to parliamentary committees.
- Outsider - little or no contact with decision-makers, often due to ideological differences e.g. Animal Liberation Front are considered so extreme that no mainstream political party would bring them into political process.
- Mass public demonstrations.
- Campaigns of civil disobedience.
- Media campaigns.
- Illegal activities to gain publicity.
- Promotional (cause) - represents, or promotes, a specific…