Flashcards in Pressure groups Deck (68)
No they don't strengthen democracy
Their activities, however, are not without drawbacks because the monitoring of th government by groups can have an impact on the at we do politics. Such groups are often self selecting and in Britain often lean toward the liberal end of the spectrum. Their causes are invariably selective. The increasing visibility of promotional groups reinforces the face that British politics is less part orientated than ever before and political activism less focussed on institutions. Politics as a result, is becoming more issue-led.
Traditional functions of pressure groups
-provide a means of popular participation in national politics between elections
-means of popular participation in local politics
-source of specialist knowledge
Why have pressure groups increased in importance
Membership of political parties has fallen, given the important roles parties play in the system, the decline in membership is even more important
A perception that political parties no longer represent the interests of their members
New social movements have caused more people to join pressure groups
Are some pressure groups more equal than others?
Pluralists argue that society consists of many groups reprsenting difference sections of the population that all have equal opportunity to shape government policy preferences.
What did Robert Dahl say?
In 1971 he said that democracy could not exist without the continuing responsiveness of the government to the preferences of its citizens considered as political equals
What is pluralism
The ability for all groups to have equal potential to reach decision makers with the ability to influence policy determined largely by the sized of their membership, by how far the leadership of pressure group consults members and by the quality of the argument they p forward
How is power dispersed?
While resources are not distributed equally between groups, those that are better off in some resources are invariably worse off in other areas. This often means that one 'influence resource' is effective in some issue areas or in some specific decisions, it is by no means as effective in all areas. Ex-BMA have membership but we're in negotiations o er junior doctor issue for months. Also in the case of the U.K. Political system, this would account to the influence of business interests on issues such as the management of the economy and the support pledged by Gordon Brown in 2000
Another point for are they all equal
,0The pre-eminence of one group is also prevented by the tendency for opponents of successful groups to gather support into the form of a rival pressure group. This provides a counterbalance to previously dominating groups and establishes an approximate balance of power between them. The development of trade unions in the 80s and their role in the corporatist state in pre-Thatcherite Britain
Another point for are they equal
Few groups are entirely lacking in influence resources. Even the smallest impoverished campaign organisations have the ability to exert some influence, if they are able to exploit what dew resources, they have the power to deny their votes and the votes of their supporters to political parties to ignore their position
Are pressure groups instruments of people power?
In theory, groups provide a means for individuals to express their demands more effectively than they could do on their own. The World Wildlife Fund, has over 200,000 members, has treated impact on government about wildlife crime or animals threshed ended with extinctionthan one person who persistently emails the relevant government department about the very same issue
Do pressure groups strengthen democracy?
Associational and promotional groups/ cause groups have an important representational function because they communicate opinion to politicians and policy makers. Representative democracy canon itself ensure e state acts in the interest of society. The public may elect and replace politicians. But interest and pressure groups,making side public opinion and the media, help to duck and balance Government so help the democratic process
M in MEALFOP
Membership: the extent of a group’s membership, its density (does it speak for most people in the industry/ profession?), and more especially the size of its activist base.
E in MEALFOP
Esteem: professional groups generally have a high social status. Doctors are less criticised than unions. NACRO (representing ex-offenders) and Release (representing drug addicts) lack strong public appeal.)
A in MEALFOP
The ability to make a strategic alliance: some groups supplement their own resources by forming alliances. For example, in opposing identity cards, libertarian campaigners cooperated with activists from groups representing asylum seekers and immigrants who feared that they would be victims of endless requests to prove they had a right to be in Britain.
L in MEALFOP
Leadership and staffing: successful organisations tend to be those that are well led, with charismatic, creative and energetic leaders being supported by an efficient staff.
F in MEALFOP
Funding: money helps groups organise internally and exercise influence externally. It enables expenditure on quality leadership, the creation of a favourable image and generous office/ staffing provision.
O in MEALFOP
Organisation: protective groups can afford generous staffing and office space. Promotional groups, including some of the most vulnerable sections of society, cannot. But they can be well-run by a small, highly centralised and professional command structure. The RSPB is very highly organised.
P in MEALFOP
Public support: groups whose campaigns are in tune with popular mood have a considerable advantage. Governments are sensitive to the views of the electorate particularly near election time.
International Access Points
• United Nations
• UN related bodies e.g. World Bank
• Overseas governments.
UK Access Points
• Executive (Whitehall)
• Parliament (both chambers) (Westminster)
• Devolved machinery
• Local authorities
Other Access Points
• Other Pressure Groups
• Private Companies
• Public corporations
European Access Points
• Council of ministers
• Court of Justice
Why does Government consult widely?
Governments make a practice of consulting widely. They do this because:
1) Can ascertain views of members – valuable in helping ministers make policy and monitoring success of previous measures.
2) Get technical information and advice.
3) Obtain assistance in carrying out policy. E.g. Farmers helped when there was an outbreak of BSE.
4) Ministers can use contacts as a means of communicating information.
Why do Pressure Groups target the the executive
• In almost all countries pressure groups target the executive branch. As David Simpson argues: ‘Pressure Groups concentrate their activities where the power lies. In the British system it lies in the executive.’
• Most often, the lobbyists (who are interested in the small print of policy) have contact with senior figures.
• It is the Higher Civil Service which offers advice to the Sec of State so it is very worthwhile to contact senior civil servants.
Examples of executive influence?
• Contact with the executive can be arranged via formal and informal links, e.g. government-established committees, the circulation of government documents.
• For example, the NFU and the Department of Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are in frequent contact.
• Big business is very important to government because they play a pivotal role in the economy.
• In the 1960s/70s the era of tripartism/ corporatism was very fashionable – representatives of government would work with business organisations and trade unions in the management of the economy. Such corporatism has gone out of fashion in the last two decades.
• The Treasury does not consult in the run-up to the Budget because of need for secrecy on sensitive information. It does however receive submissions from interested parties on what they would like to see in the annual statement.
Duncan Watts: ‘Consultation is not the same as influence.’
• If their standing with the public diminishes, then their views may seem less important.
• In the mid 1980s the Lord’s Day Observance Society still help a hold over government particularly in discussion of the issue of the Sunday trading laws. By the mid 1990s the influence was dwindling as church attendances continued to decrease and society became more liberal.
• Whereas the Thatcher gov was unable to pass its Shops Bill in 1986, the Major administration was able to pass a bill allowing retailers to open for 6 hrs on a Saturday.
Why do parties target the legislature
• In Britain, there is a strong system of party discipline, so that MPs are likely to be less responsive to group persuasion.
• Powerful protective groups prefer contact with the executive.
• Once elected, MPs can expect to receive contacts and be invited to attend social gatherings.
• In one study of 253 organised interests, 75% of them claimed to be in regular or frequent contact with one or more MP and more than half maintained contact with the H of L.
Information about democratic processes of pressure groups
• Some pressure groups such as Greenpeace are highly centralised.
• In many cases pressure group officers are appointed rather than elected by the group’s members. This means that those leading pressure groups are often not directly accountable to members.
• Many group decisions are not taken by members, but rather by a central unelected board or committee.
• Neil McNaughton suggests that groups such as the BMA and the AA are particularly poor at consulting their members over questions of policy and direction. Many groups are therefore elitist rather than pluralist.
• Some sectional groups, for example trade unions, have been forced to become more internally democratic as a result of legislation passed in the 1980s (e.g. requirement to hold ballots before national strike action). The current Conservative government are attempting to change legislation to make it even harder for trade uions to organise strikes without majority agreement.
• Many cause groups start as a small group of committed individuals and control often remains with these individuals even as the membership expands.
Reasons why pressure groups target the legislature// pressure groups prefer the executive, legislature of lower status
1) Contact with parliamentarians has become easier due to better technology (emails etc).
2) The growth and development of the select committee system since the 1980s has created new targets for influence. The increasing importance attached to pre-legislative scrutiny by the House serves to make the input of groups even more worthwhile. It is especially beneficial for pressure groups to make links with committee staff who could possibly be with the committee for a long time. Select committees often investigate issues, and this can be a useful forum for pressure groups as they can be required to give evidence at a hearing, therefore publicising their cause. The problem with select committees however is that the Government does not have to listen to them and their primary function is more to scrutinise the government than to suggest legislation.
3) The attitudes of governments have changed. The Thatcher and Major administrations were less receptive to groups and encouraged lobbyists to turn to MPs
How do pressure groups target the executive?
• Initiate legislation on behalf of the group: That is introducing a Private Member’s Bill. However, the House of Commons spends less than 5% of its time considering such legislation, and the time itself is usually concentrated in the least attractive part of the parliamentary week (Friday’s). PMB’s do have significance for pressure groups however. They offer the opportunity to promote change and publicise a cause. In the 1960s PMB’s brought about changes to legislation concerning capital punishment for example. But still, opportunities here are limited.