Direct contact with the public is one of the most popular methods used by pressure groups. These include door-to-door canvassing and more favourably, large demonstrations. Greenpeace is known for its sometimes controversial demonstrations such as Arctic 30 which saw 30 members of their group jailed in Russia for protesting against oil drilling. They have also been criticised for their campaign on the Nazca Lines which saw part of the historical feature ruined by their campaigners. Another popular example is the 750,000 people who took to the streets of London to voice their opinion on the Iraq war.
Both of these examples include thousands of members, however, size is not essential for success. Some say that the pressure groups power is democratically based and so the larger your pressure group, the more success you encounter and the wider spread of power you have. It is generally viewed that you are more likely to express public opinion if you are a larger group. For example, RSPB, NSCPSS and National Trust all have a large membership and therefore viewed as more powerful and successful. However, size is cannot compensate for the lack of economic power. Groups which have a larger economic power are more influential even if they have less members. Smaller pressure groups made up of mainly doctors are more influential than a large group of the general public thus showing that it is not about how many people you have supporting you, but more about who supports you.
There are 4 different kinds of pressure groups, cause groups, interest groups, insider groups and outsider groups. Causal groups are open to all members of public, sectional are only open to certain individuals, insider groups have close links to the government and outsider groups usually take actions which the government does not approve of.
Sectional pressure groups seek to represent the common interests of members of society. The national union of teachers (NUT) and the British medical association are both examples of sectional pressure groups as they are open only to teachers or people in the medical industry.
Causal pressure groups represent the views of the public and are open to anyone who supports their cause. One example of a causal pressure group is the Gurkha Justice Campaign. This campaign was open to any member of society which is what made it causal.
In conclusion, pressure groups influence parliament massively. The Gurkha campaign lead to a change in the law which allowed Gurkha’s to settle in the United Kingdom. Another example, although not influential on British parliament, is Stephen Lawrence’s mother who fought for 18 years to change the law and was eventually successful. Even though some pressure groups do not find their way into parliament fairly, such as paying MP’s to take their causes in, most of them eventually get parliament to listen to them and if not, they turn to demonstrations which the government deals with quickly and efficiently to best suit the pressure group and the public.
One advantage of pressure groups is that they give the public a voice and are a safety valve for frustrations. This is an advantage when influencing parliament as is sways the in the direction of which the public are and get parliament on their side. They also help MP’s keep in touch and up to date in what people are thinking, for example, the ban on smoking in public places and changes in the car tax regulations. Another advantage is that they can raise public awareness and also their members are often experts who have advanced knowledge and can therefore suggest detailed and well thought out changes.
One disadvantage is that some pressure groups only represent large powerful organisations such as Greenpeace; this means that even if smaller group present their arguments well it doesn’t mean they will be listened too. Also, their methods can be huge problems such as the poll tax riots in 1990, where released figures claimed 113 were injured, mostly members of the public, but also police officers; and 339 people had been arrested. These demonstrations do more harm than good.