- Slides: 11
What are Pressure Groups? Pressure groups seek to exert influence on government from outside Parliament – they do not seek to become the government, they don’t try and get MPs elected. They are not political parties as they are often focusing on only one area that they would like to change.
Types of Pressure Groups – Cause or Interest? Cause groups are based on shared attitudes or values, they seek to advance the welfare of others. They may be fighting for groups of people, animals or the environment. They seek to benefit others rather than themselves and have an open membership for anyone who shares the same beliefs. Interest groups (sometimes called sectional groups) seek to defend their own interests. They represent sections of society like workers, employers or businesses. They are concerned in protecting and advancing the interests of their members. Membership is limited to people in a particular career or economic position. Members are motivated by self-interest.
Insider or Outsider? Pressure groups can also be defined in terms of their relationship to government. Are they a group which is trusted by the government as being a respected source of info on an issue? Do they have support for a political party – will members of the party that is in government likely be supportive of the goals of the Pressure Group? Insider groups are groups that are consulted on a regular basis by the government – they operate inside the decision making process, not outside it. Examples of insider groups include the CBI, National Farmers Union, BMA, MENCAP and the Howard League for Penal Reform. Groups are consulted in the process of policy formation as they can be a vital source of information and advice to government. However, only a small number of groups are involved, many argue that they should not be as they have not been democratically elected.
Depends who is in government The group’s insider or outsider status will be dependent on which party is in power. For example, at the moment, the Conservative Party is in power, this party tends to be on the right of the political spectrum, supporting individualism and capitalism – so the CBI, which represents business is an insider group. If Jeremy Corbyn were to win an election, it is known that he is against the use or development of nuclear weapons, so the group CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) may become an insider group.
Insider groups can be divided into 3 different categories High profile insider groups – these straddle the insider/outsider divide, by operating both behind the scenes and through the mass media – examples of these groups are the CBI and the BMA. Low profile insider groups – these concentrate on developing contacts with the government – an example would be the Howard League for Penal Reform. “Prisoner Groups”, these are not representing people in prison. They are called “prisoners” because they are a prisoner to the government department that formed them – they have no alternative but to be insider groups – for example the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
There also 3 categories of outsider groups Potential insider groups – these aspire to be insider groups, and may become insiders if there is a change in the government. Outsider groups by necessity – lack the political skills to become insiders (Fathers 4 Justice) Ideological outsider groups – groups with radical aims that are not compatible with those of government (Amnesty International, Animal Liberation Front).
On the face of it, insider status is powerful as it allows groups to exert direct pressure on the people who make decisions. However, it is not always an advantage, insider groups have to have objectives that are broadly compatible with government in order to be considered as insiders– this restricts the freedom to manoeuvre of insider groups. Outsider groups have no special links to government. They try to exert influence indirectly via the mass media or through public information campaigns. Being an outsider group may be a sign of weakness – they may have been denied insider status and so had to go “outside” in the hope of exerting indirect pressure.
Some pressure groups are clearly more powerful than others as they have more success at achieving their aims. Success can be measured in a number of ways… Affecting government policy – influencing the government to make changes Pushing an issue up the political agenda Changing the public’s behaviour
Factors affecting the power of pressure groups Wealth Size Organisation and leadership The government’s views Popular support The effectiveness of opposition
Strategies used by Pressure Groups Poster Task!!!! Since we never do posters – we should do a poster! Make a poster showing the different methods that are used by pressure groups Evaluate the effectiveness of each of these methods Try to relate each method to the different types of pressure groups, and the different power that pressure groups might have– as effectiveness will be to do with their success at getting stuff changed, and making the public aware of what they stand for – getting it on the public agenda.