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Analyse the ways in which US pressure groups are more significant than their UK counterparts.

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Introduction

Analyse the ways in which US pressure groups are more significant than their UK counterparts. (45 min exam question) A pressure group is an organised unit seeking to influence government without putting forward candidates for elective office. These groups employ many different methods in order to achieve their goals and have mass membership both in the US and UK political systems. The main reason for pressure (interest) group dominance in the US political system when compared to the UK is the abundance of access points in the US, caused by the separation of powers between State and Federal government, and the further subdivision of federal government into legislature, executive and judiciary departments, each constitutionally prohibited from encroaching on each other's power. In the US pressure groups exercise many powers which have become more significant over time. Many pressure groups have full-time offices in Washington and employ ex-politicians to lobby Congress on their behalf. ...read more.

Middle

The amount they are able to influence government is often dependent on the party in power. Throughout the 1980s the Trade Unions were very much marginalised while the Conservatives were in government, with the advent of New Labour, think tanks such as the IPPR have become instrumental in helping to formulate policy. Pressure groups are unable to play a part in candidate selection as this is a function exercised by British political parties. Pressure groups in the UK concentrate their efforts on the legislature, as Parliament is sovereign, and on the civil service, since this is the focus of policy formulation and implementation. The judiciary is becoming an increasingly popular target with the introduction of Human Rights legislation (2000) and the Treaties of Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice, which have devolved power to EU institutions, and thus resulted in a considerable increase in pressure group lobbying in Brussels. ...read more.

Conclusion

A particular bill only has to be blocked at one level for it to die, which is much easier that guiding a proposal through from start to finish intact. Pressure groups in America could be seen to be obstructing democracy. Britain and the US are both representative democracies; the electorate transfer their sovereignty to their elective representatives in free and (mostly) fair elections giving them a mandate to make decisions on their behalf. Pressure groups in America are so powerful that, although they only represent a section of society, they often almost "coerce" the people's representatives into making a certain decision. Conversely, it could be argued that this is politics working as it was intended to in America, "Leadership is difficult precisely because the framers of the Constitution wanted it to be. Opportunities to check power abound, opportunities to exercise power are limited." (David Mervin) Britain's pressure groups may be becoming more American in style. There has been more devolution of power to local assemblies creating more access points, and increasing British groups' potential for influence. ...read more.

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