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What role do pressure groups play in the British political system?

In the last years the role of pressure groups in the political process have been broadly discussed as the groups roles today seems to be unclear and the level of influence is difficult to measure. This essay will discuss. What role do pressure groups play in the British political system? Why are some groups more influential than others?

As a common definition: pressure groups are voluntary organisations formed to advance or defend a common cause or interest. Therefore they are unlike political parties in that they do not wish to assume responsibility for governing the country; rather they seek to influence those who do so. [1]To some extend, pressure groups do not aspire to govern the country and are concerned with a relatively narrow range of problems; is has been argued that much of their work is non-political but as much as their concerns and aspirations are affected by government they seek to have an influence over the conduct of public policy. Another view is “Pressure groups seek to influence rather than power, yet pluralist argue that power is effectively dispersed through the widespread influence of countless groups on government and policy making”. [2] Additionally, groups seek to defend and advance their own interest or cause, and government policy or specific decisions may affect them adversely or beneficially. Therefore they have a strong motive to seek to influence government, especially as power in the British political system is concentrated with the core executive. However, the universe of pressure groups now requires more systematic subdivisions. The problem at once encountered is that the traditional ways of doing it hardly seem adequate. The oldest classification in the technical literature is the one introduced in 1935 by Harwood Childs of Princeton University[3], who distinguished between those groups “whose community of interests is based on such fundamental differentials as age, sex, occupation and race, from those existing merely to further special ideas or groups of ideas. Furthermore, because their concerns are liable to be affected by government decisions, they need to be organised in order to influence ministers and respond to what they propose. “In Britain the tendency is to use the term ‘pressure groups’ and then to sub-divide them into different categories. The world ‘pressure’ has an unfortunate connotation and many groups operate without resorting to any degree of coercion”.[4] In both case and its simplest; pressure groups are not counting political parties that influence or attempt to influence the public authorities, mainly the central government and they traditionally operated at four main levels, seeking to influence the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the public at large. In Britain and Europe, they tend to be more closely associated with government.

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