The Influence of Pressure Groups on the Government
This essay will outline the significance to which pressure groups have
an influence on government and explain how they have fared under New
Whilst the term ‘pressure groups’ may be relatively new, the concept
itself dates back as far as 1787. The Society for Effecting the
Abolition of the Slave Trade was led by William Wilberforce and Thomas
Clarkson and successfully campaigned for the abolition of the slave
trade. (Jones, 2004, p233)
Pressure groups are formed by a group of people who share a common
interest or goal. The intention of the group is to raise the profile
or the cause and/or advance it. Unlike political parties, they rarely
have a manifesto on a range of policies. Instead they campaign only
on specific policies in order to influence public policy formulated by
the likes of central or local government. (Grant, 1995, p3)
There are generally two types of group: sectional and cause groups.
Sectional groups comprise of individuals who have similar interests
and gain personally from being part of such a group. It includes
entities such as professional bodies like the British Medical
Association, the CBI and trade unions. This type of group is driven
by the interests of its members. Cause groups are formed in order to
achieve a specific objective. It could potentially attract any
individual who believes in the principle and the group is driven by
the interests of the cause rather than the individual members.
Pressure groups can be categorised further into insider and outsider
groups. This distinction is concerned with the status held by the
groups in the eyes of the government and the access it has to the
decision makers in parliament. Insider groups will regularly be
consulted by the government. This consultative role is built up if a
group has demonstrated a number of features: Authority – the ability
of the group to speak on behalf of all of its members. Information –
the group has expertise and information on a specific subject.
Compatibility – of the objectives with that of the government.
Compatibility – of the groups objectives with public sympathies.
Track record – of giving good advice. Possession of powerful
sanctions – if a group has the ability to seriously affect society
through withdrawal of their services their interests may be viewed
more sympathetically. (Jones, 2004, p239)
Governments recognise the usefulness of pressure groups as a valuable
source of information and expertise in helping them formulate
policies. Governments will often consult with insider groups to find
out about problems with their current policies along with suggestions
for how this could be improved or to gauge negative feedback to new
policies. By consulting...