Pressure groups are formal (Insider) and informal (Outsider) associations whose goals are to further the interests of a specific section of the society to promote a particular cause by influencing the decisions of the government. An insider group is a pressure group which is very involved in the decision making of policies e. g. Cancer Research UK. An outsider group is a pressure who is not associated with decision making as they like to assert their independence and lack political clout e.
g. Greenpeace. However there are some outsider groups that want to be affiliated and become an insider, but they have not yet been asked by the government e. g. Association of British Drivers. These groups are also known as “Aspiring Insiders”. These pressure groups are organisations that have the same interest as anyone. However there are groups that focus on a section of society e. g. Trade Unions are for teachers etc.
They can also be classified as Interest Groups. These types of pressure groups display both democratic and undemocratic features which are both good and bad for the democratic process. Pressure groups are very informative. They are good at educating people and raising awareness of the general public. They offer independent information to the public and they are very important in furthering our knowledge so we are able to make more sound, rather than rash decisions.
However they may not be completely accurate but we gather enough information from different sources we can come to a judgement which reasonable or sensible. This is very good for democracy as they are informative and good at educating others such as Action on Smoking and Heath (ASH) keeps the general public aware about the dangers of smoking so they can think twice if they are ever influenced or motivated to smoke and to help others to quit smoking. This shows that are have a great interest of the public to support them and to keep them away from ignorance.
This is very good because I believe they are more genuinely interested in public awareness and safety as they are not a political party but still involved within politics to help make decisions that affect us rather than MPs who does not actually seems (sometimes) that they are heavily interested about the general public. Pressure groups are very representative. They present many and different ideas to those who govern. This applies to both who have an active and passive involvement.
Pressure groups have different means to which they represent their members for example the Automobile Association, they represent motorists and they will look to get a legislation on the interests on motorists such as Congestion charges, insurances etc. There will always be a pressure that represents anything such as hospital workers, birdwatchers, holiday makers; there is literally someone that will represent you. You can be actively involved so you know what issues are being addressed or you can be passively represented where you are still represented by don’t know what topics or issues are being affected or being debated so you are still receiving the benefits.
This is a good thing as everyone as a whole is being accepted and a broad range of people’s rights are being considered including minorities. This is very democratic as everyone is accounted for and everyone’s interest are represented in decision making whether you are involved or inactive. Pressure groups disperse power. This is defined as pluralism, as they spread power more evenly and widely. You can even call this as an enhancement of democracy as most have commented that. Governments and political parties tend to concentrate power in the hands of one leader (David Cameron, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg etc.
) Pressure groups can empower wider member ships by representing the whole population including different ethnic minorities tolerating a national voice. As long as there is some form of influence they create an opportunity to the politically active part of our population to decision makers both directly and indirectly. Age UK and different unions represent public service workers and their different interests as they have an enormous membership and they are very effective. This is very good for democracy as it takes away authority from Government and gives power right back to the people, but indirectly.
We are represented more equally and are represented more than just being part of our local constituency. This creates an opportunity of being represented very broadly. However, size of pressure groups can create a twist in the democratic process as well as how big your pressure group is in terms of numbers. The Countryside Alliance put out an amazing number of 300,000 sympathisers on the streets in 2003 for a protest on a ban on hunting with canines as well as issues in the rural areas. This caused an immediate panic of the government and which included an effort to run down the hunting bill in parliament generating a lot of scrutiny.
But the large turnout did not reflect public opinion on the main issue of fox hunting, but they were in favour of a full ban. This represents a large population but it doesn’t necessarily mean they reflect the main topic and debate. This suggests that isn’t very good for democracy as size does not guarantee success. This includes the biggest protest in 2003 on the Iraq war, but the government still did not listen. Pressure groups are known to disperse power which is why it is good for democracy, however looking at more wealthier, strategic pressure groups you can see a great deal of elitism.
They concentrate power in the hands of a certain few. The banking lobby is a prime example as can the various producer groups representing big businesses and industries. Producer groups are known to represent their shareholders and management in favour of the workers (as they see it better for the industry instead of what is good for employees). This particularly bad for democracy especially if you are an insider groups, they can form a powerful elite in partnership with the government. Ministers could accuse of further elitism that are more than likely to be influenced by group leaderships than wider membership.
In conclusion, I believe that pressure groups are very good for democracy as they represent the public broadly, restrict power and speak up for further voices. They are very informative and speak in favour of the people rather than the government. There are of course a lot of negatives about pressure groups including elitism and size but they are also pluralist which is great for democracy. To be very precise, I believe that pressure groups are very good for the democratic process in decision and democracy itself.