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How do British Pressure groups exert influence?

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Introduction

How do British Pressure groups exert influence? The aim of British pressure groups is to exert influence through the people who actually held the power to make decisions. Pressure groups do not look for power of political office for themselves, but instead do seek to influence the decisions made by those who hold this power. Groups who enjoyed momentous "power has been greatly exaggerated" at particular periods of time, such as the trade unions can endanger democracy if sectional groups undermine the public interest or if the methods they use are corrupt or intimidating. A pressure group can be described as 'an organised group that does not put up candidates for election, but seeks to influence government policy or legislation' (Budge, Crewe, McKay & Newton, 1998, pp.286 & 287). They can also be described as 'interest groups', 'lobby groups' or 'protest groups'. Some people avoid using the term 'pressure group' as it can inadvertently be interpreted as meaning the group use actual pressure to achieve their aims, which does not necessarily happen. An indisputable definition of a pressure group, however, is very problematic, due to the several varying forms that they take, which perhaps explain why several definitions of pressure group appear ambiguous. The term 'pressure group' is relatively recent, yet 'voluntary organisations' have been attempting to influence policy ever since the late 18th Century. A typical example of this is The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. This was founded in 1787 under William Wilberforce, and successfully achieved its objective to abolish slavery in 1807. ...read more.

Middle

In the 1980s, CND was excluded from any consultation process with the government because its aim was unacceptable to the Conservative government. An extreme example of an outsider group is the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which seeks a united Ireland but has been considered an illegitimate organisation by the British government. It was considered anti-constitutional because its violent indirect method - terrorism - is unacceptable in a democratic country. Three main models have been developed to explain who exercises power in the UK - the Pluralist, the Elitist and the New Right. According to the pluralist model, power is exercised by the mass of the population, rather than by a small elite group. This conclusion is derived from two main arguments. First, pluralists note that if a majority of people do not like what their representatives are doing, they can vote them out of office at the next election. Representatives, therefore, have to act in a way that is pleasing to the majority. Second, pluralists consider voting to be of irregular significance. General elections occur periodically and individuals are asked to vote for packages of policies put together by political parties. Therefore, voters do not have an opportunity to wield influence on the specific issues that concern them; so pluralists claim that people are able to exercise power between elections by joining interest groups - such as political parties, trade unions and other pressure groups. Group activity, they argue, is vital to the successful functioning of the political system. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this sense, they work against, not in favour of the public interest. Pressure groups themselves may not be representative of their members. Their officers are not usually elected. Few groups have procedures for consulting their members. As a result, the group's members may not share the views expressed by group officials. Although the views of pressure groups may sometimes be considered, they are likely to be ignored if they do not confirm with the ideology or agenda of the decision makers. Pressure group activity gives people hope that they can make a difference. This hope is a distraction. The ruling class would rather that people put their energies into pressure group activities, which do not question the fundamentals of the system than into political activity, which seriously challenges the right of the elite to govern. Group opposition can slow down or block desirable changes, thereby contributing to social immobilisation. The in-egalitarian way that some groups operate increases social discontent and political instability by intensifying the sense of social frustration and injustice felt by disadvantaged and excluded sections of the population. In Britain's secretive political system, groups and parties combined are unable to mount effective opposition to government policies because they generally lack adequate information. Large-scale demonstrations mounted by any group may lead to unpleasant clashes without the police, sometimes involving militants with their own agenda. This level of civil disobedience cannot be justified in today's democratic system. Pressure groups are an essential dimension of any democracy, yet they can endanger democracy if sectional groups undermine the public interest or if the methods they use are corrupt or intimidating. ?? ?? ?? ?? Page 1 of 3 Rohaya Livingstone Page 1 5/3/2007 ...read more.

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