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Do pressure groups have an important role to play in creating effective change in society

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First I will explain what pressure groups are and the different aims and methods they use to influence the government.

Pressure groups are special organisations, which seek to influence the way power is run by the government and to take advantage for a particular idea or group, but not to have complete power.

There are two types of pressure groups:

Promotional groups- these groups seek to encourage a cause or idea. They campaign on things such as shelter.

Interest groups- the main purpose of interest groups is to defend and further the aims of a group in some way either by buying or selling or by profession. Interest groups also defend and further the aims and interests of particular departments in a firm such as printing. Interest groups campaign on things such as equal pay, health and safety work.

Groups may also be divided in to producer groups, which present those who create a product and consumer groups, those who buy and use the product.

Pressure groups use methods and points to apply pressure on the government very according to the nature of the group, and the nature of its campaign.

There are five main methods used by pressure groups to influence the way people think.

1) Direct appeal to the public- a part of pressure groups is to alert the public about an issue they were not aware of or to change their view on a particular issue. In order to this, they organise marches, demonstrations, leaflets, public meetings and direct action-sittings, occupations and trespass. This is a largely used path by promotional groups.

Promotional groups are ‘outsider’ groups. They do not have any contact or relationship with the government. That is why they have to appear directly to the government.

By spreading a particular message and gaining the publics attention, may impress the government that the group shows an important section of public opinion. Since public opinion is difficult to explain exactly.

Acting directly may include illegal actions. This creates tension and disagreements in pressure groups. Those who argue with illegal action may argue that the law is unfair. The illegal actions attract attention of newspapers, and national television. Whilst on the other hand adversary may argue that one should play by the rules and that illegal actions will not attract and impress potential supporters.

2) The media- pressure groups have to attract attention of television, radio and newspapers because most of the nation watches television or listens to the radio or reads the newspapers. So it will try to influence their views.

3) Parliament- pressure groups target for the parliament because laws are made there and the government faces public debate and criticism at the parliament.

Ways in to the parliament are:

* Influencing MPs and asking them to support you. Influencing can take many forms. A mass approach where a large number of people in the same pressure group may talk to their MPs all at the same time, or individual approaches or group approaches or writing letters or mail shots.

* Legislation- MPs have the right to promote new laws as individuals although most laws that pass on to the law book are sponsored by the government. Governments may sponsor legislation as a result of the activities a pressure group does. Using friendly MPs, pressure groups may be involved in changing a bill during its way through the parliament.

There are two stages at which this is possible:

1) Committee stage- a small party meeting up with MPs at which reformations are considered.

2) Report stage- Reformations are considered by the full house of commons.

An hour a day for four days a week is set-aside for ministers to answer questions. Much of the parliamentary time is set for debating on ideas issues.

* Political parties- some pressure groups, especially ones with no contact with the government have followed a long-term strategy of seeking to make their own aims and ideas compulsory to one of the political parties. This is a hard strategy to adopt since the group has to distribute its people all over the country and have to wait a long time for the results.

* Direct influence- the parliament makes laws but the government makes most of the laws. The laws made by the government and the crucial discussions and planning of the future does not take place in public arenas and the media. It is very confidential even the civil servants don’t talk about the discussions made by the government instead of just getting a little of their own way.

Below I have written the methods used by pressure groups to influence decisions.

1) Consultant ships- many industries and organisations pay MPs to alert them if any parliamentary actions have been made that might influence their activities.

2) Sponsorship- MPs are either paid by money or elected by trade unions and in return they are mentioned by the MPs in the parliament.

3) Block votes- members of a pressure group are encouraged to support a political party agrees to support their aims.

4) Publicity- pressure groups try to gain the medias attention and try to be symbolised sympathetically as possible. They try to influence what appears on television and in newspapers.

5) Specialised Knowledge- decisions, which involve large, technical knowledge, are given to the experts, they can eventually influence the final decisions.

6) Key positions- politicians may need help from pressure groups to help them eliminate certain government policies. They ask the group to carry the tasks out and if the group does carry it out successfully then it can influence the decisions.

7) Civil disobedience- if strategies fail the pressure group may turn to civil disobedience. They may bloke roads or stage illegal protests and in the extreme, some groups turn to criminal activities.

Having looked at pressure groups generally, I realised how varied they are. I feel that there must be a definite need for them as they must be doing a good job obviously. Political parties are concerned about the country, but different parties have different ideas and not all of the peoples concerns are covered. This is evident because so many pressure groups exist. Pressure groups like R.S.P.C.A, Friends of the Earth are very well known and are part of our everyday lives.

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