A pressure group is described as an organized group that does not put up candidates for election, but seeks to influence government policy or legislation to put forward their aims and beliefs for certain policies. Pressure groups are different to any other political party which is why they have certain rights such as they have the right to criticize the government and also they have the right to protest. There are two types of political pressure groups, the first is an insider group which is when a pressure group have strong links with decision makers and are regularly consulted.
The Britain in Europe pressure group is a good example for this because it was launches by Tony Blair, Gordan Brown, Kenneth Clarke, Michele Heseltine and Charles Kennedy. The second group is an outsider pressure group which is one that have none of the advantages of insider groups. They cannot expect to be consulted during the policy-making process, nor can they expect to gain access to ministers and civil servants. An example of an outsider pressure group is the Age Concern UK which aim to equalize men’s and women’s state pension at age 65 in 2018.
Other methods used by pressure groups can be direct action. Direct action occurs when a group of people take an action which is intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue. This can include nonviolent and less often violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participants. Lobbying is an example of direct action which is used regularly in pressure groups.
For example the ‘Country Side Alliance’ is an outsider cause group which has the Labour Party as an opposition. The Country Side Alliance was published by channel 4 that they were “the main lobbying group on rural issues”. Another example is fathers 4 justice which produced another type of direct action which was publicity stunts. One of Fathers 4 Justice members tied a banner to the Big Ben monument in London. It is ideal for pressure groups to have realistic goals so they can see their progress and work towards improvements.
The public will like a pressure group with set goals as they will see how organized the group is and whether or not the group will be successful. If a pressure group had unrealistic goals but is still successful this means the public will be more willing to join. Never the less, if a pressure group does have unrealistic aim the public may see them as pointless as having not achieved anything.
Amnesty international is a pressure group who set realistic goals such as their “vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.” This should not be too hard knowing the Human Rights Act 1998.
It is difficult to assess how successful a pressure group is, this is because the government sometimes claim the credit due from the acts resulting from them. This is why pressure groups rely on public support as this is what gives them the success. In most cases of successful pressure groups, MP’s are obliged to listen to the groups as this shows towards the public that they listen to their opinions.
In 2003, the marches against the Iraq war attracted between 1 and 2 million people, this was ideal for government to intervene due to the large quantity of people taking part which would publicise the government. For a pressure group being able manipulate the public, it gives them an advantage, this can be done by having famous faces included in with the pressure group which will receive the public’s interests and create more power for the pressure group. This was shown when the make Poverty History group included two famous faces which were Bono and Bob Geldof.
Pressure groups retain success easily when they have the access and use of certain resources such as financial funding. When a pressure group has financial funding it does not technically mean they have more success but means that it is easier to be successful. With these funds the groups are able to do almost anything they want to campaign their group. With this funding the groups may decide to use it to hire people to lobby, use celebrity endorsements and the use of MP sponsorship.
Additionally, the funding may go towards advertisement to entice more members of the public. A second resource can be the size of the group which will have more affect on government than a smaller one. This is because the government is more likely to respond to a larger group with more people as it will show them that the government listen to the public which I’m fact can boost the potential votes won. The strengths and the opposition of the pressure group is very important because this will alter how successful they are.
If the pressure group has a powerful opposition which is more likely to be more successful then the pressure group has no chance of making any change. However when there are two pressure groups with the same power it may come down to who has been more successful in the past. The Country Side Alliance is a good example because they are an outsider cause group who have an opposition of the Labour party due to the party pledged to ban hunting with dogs.
Additionally, a second opposition group for the Country Side Alliance would be the League against Cruel Sports. Finally, for a pressure group to be successful and to have an impact with a large amount of supporters, it would be ideal to have public sympathy. Public sympathy is when an event takes place which is shocking to the public which will make them sympathetic and want to join the pressure group.
An example of this is the ‘Snow Drop Campaign’ The Snowdrop Campaign was founded after the Dunblane Massacre in March 1996 to call for a total ban on the private ownership and use of handguns in the United Kingdom. This had the public sympathetic due to the death of sixteen school children and one teacher which made the snowdrop campaign gain over 750,000 signatures to a petition in 6 weeks.
Although public support for pressure groups is important, this is not the main factor which will issue success. There are many more factors which will endorse a pressure groups success including their wealth backing, the status of the membership (profession) and most importantly in my opinion is the insider or outsider status of the group.