Pressure groups in a democracy.

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Politics                                Pressure Groups                        
Gopal Makwana 12AT                                                        07/05/07

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.  They would want to influence government at the local, national and international level where applicable.  The aim of all pressure groups is to influence the people who actually have the power to make decisions.  Pressure groups do not look for the power of political office for themselves, but do seek to influence the decisions made by those who do hold this political power.  Pressure groups can do this through many ways of taking action the extremes of the scale are peaceful means such as petitions to high level violence such as assassinations.  A example of a peaceful demonstration is when in 1998 around 300,000 people went to London to protest about the Labour government’s rural policies - the ‘Countryside March’ - the government reacted by announcing plans for a Ministry of Rural Affairs and by publishing a white paper investigating all aspects of rural life.  A more extreme group is the Animal Liberation Front, whose campaigns include the illegal activities such as planting bombs.

There are several factors that make a pressure group successful.  The first factor that the government would probably look at is that is the group is known as an ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ group.  Insider groups have strong links with decision makers and are regularly consulted. They are the groups that the government - local or national - considers to be legitimate and are, therefore, given access to decision makers.  For example, insider groups might be included in regular meetings with ministers or civil servants and they might be included on lists for circulation of new government proposals, as these groups are a part of the direct decision making process this enables them to use direct methods in order to exert influence on the government.  A good example of this is the Trades Union Congress.  The Labour government meets in a conference with this group with all the high profile ministers and they listen to the advice that the TUC have to offer, the TUC also adds suggestions that would be beneficial to all its members.  Outsider groups are the total opposite of their insider counterparts, they cannot expect to be consulted during the policy-making process, nor can they expect to gain access to ministers and civil servants.  They have to work outside the governmental decision making process and, therefore, have fewer opportunities to determine the direction of policy.  The government does not like to be associated with these groups nor do they like to be associated with the government.

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If the pressure group has a clear strategy, it will be successful as it will help them in many ways.  The main reason is that it shall convince the government that they do actually know what they are talking about and are justified to ask the government to make the changes.  The group is also likely to attract new members into the group as other people are likely to share a common interest with them.

The membership of the pressure group is likely to have an impact on the government.  It’s not necessarily the size that is all important ...

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