Pressure Groups in democracy

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Nicola Barclay 12FHC                                                               Miss Claydon

Government and Politics                                             Pressure groups in democracy

Pressure Groups in democracy

A pressure group is defined as ”a group of like-minded individuals who are organised with a view to influencing the formulation of government policy”. An undeniable definition of a pressure group however, is very difficult to make this is due to the several varying forms that they take. The term 'pressure group' is fairly recent yet 'voluntary organisations' have been attempting to influence policy even before the 18th Century. An 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 aims to abolish slavery in 1807. More recently pressure groups have increased, (despite having a fluctuating popularity). This perhaps is because of the extensive opportunity for views to be put forward through the media.

Pressure groups can be classified in two different ways 1) by what they aim to achieve, and 2) how they attempt to achieve it. Insider groups have strong links with the decision makers within government and are regularly consulted, hence influencing democracy in some shapes and form. (Being an insider status means that they can gain access to the decision makers and put forward their case directly.) Outsider groups however do not participate in the consultation process, mainly by government exclusion but sometimes by choice. Most outsider groups aim to achieve insider status, so they can gain more influence. These differences between Insider and Outsider groups is important in the influence they have over the government, and also in how democratic this system is.

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Although the British political system is already supposed to be democratic, it is frequently pondered if pressure groups are part of what makes it fair and improves the system, or if their influence is a threat to the democratic process in the United Kingdom. The structure of the British political system only has restricted access available for pressure groups to obtain, this stops them from being an unelected body having too much influence over policy. It is clear from the development of pressure groups that they only want to influence policy rather than control it, hence not affecting democracy in ...

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