Uploaded by Ahmed Iqbal

A pressure groups success will be largely shaped by the tactics it adapts in pursuit of its goals

“A pressure groups success will be largely shaped by the tactics it adapts in
pursuit of its goals.” [25 marks]
Pressure groups are organisations that usually have a single interest or goal. I believe that a
pressure groups success is mostly due to the tactics or methods it uses, however I believe that
the tactics used by a pressure group are heavily dependant on other factors – most importantly
resources and status. I will evaluate the importance of tactics in the successes of pressure
groups against a pressure group’s issues and aims, status and resources. It is also important to
recognise that success can be measured in different ways for different groups. It could be in
terms of media attention gained, size of membership or their influence on policy.
The issues and aims of a pressure group are important in determining their success. In order for
pressure groups to be successful, generally they would need to have a combination of realistic,
sympathetic or salient issues and aims. For example, The Living Wage Foundation started by
targeting four hospitals in East London over low pay. They then grew to have 1000 business
committed to paying over 60,000 workers a living wage by 2014. The group is now highly
influential, especially since the issue has become increasingly salient with the Labour Party
campaigning on the ‘cost of living crisis’, so much so that the government has implemented a
new ‘National Living Wage’ for over 25s. This demonstrates how having a realistic initial target
and a sympathetic, salient issue (better pay for low-paid workers) can help a group to be
successful. On the other hand, groups with complex, controversial or overlooked issues/aims
may struggle to achieve their goals. For example, in 2017 the Prison Officers Association, along
with other relevant pressure groups, all lobbied the government to reverse spending cuts that
they argue have contributed to rising suicide rates and decreasing standards. However, as these
pressure groups represent prisoners, it may have proven difficult for the groups to gain public
sympathy. Furthermore, pressure groups conflicting with the government are likely to be
unsuccessful. For example, in 2013 the Fire Brigades Union went on strike to oppose reforms to
their pensions. These aims were challenging because the government was committed to public
spending cuts as they had campaigned for austerity measures during the 2010 general election.
They also lacked public sympathy, as only 42% of the public felt that fire fighters should be
allowed to strike.
The status of a pressure group can also contribute to its success. Insider pressure groups are far
more likely to be successful in shaping policy than outsider pressure groups. An insider group
has close links with the government, insider pressure groups are able to advise and influence
ministers directly as events are happening. They take part in consultations, appear before select
committees and sometimes governments approach certain groups seeking their opinions, this is
due to their expertise, resources and professionalism. For example, in 2016 the AA provided
evidence and statistics to persuade the government to increase penalties for using a mobile
phone while driving. Outsider pressure groups are unable or unwilling to work with the
government or Parliament and focus their efforts on influencing public opinion. This is much
more difficult than working directly with the government and usually takes a long time.
However, insider groups are not guaranteed influence. Firstly, because there are different types
of insider groups. Core and specialist insider groups can wield significant influence within
government, shaping legislation before it is even drafted, but there are many more peripheral
insiders who participate inside of the political system but wield little influence. Secondly, even
core insiders are not guaranteed influence. When a core insider’s aims are not in line with the
government they will soon struggle. For example, The BMA spent months negotiating with the
Department of Health to draw up a new contract for junior doctors but could not get the terms it
The resources available to a pressure group, both human and financial, are incredibly important
in determining their success. Mass membership can give a pressure group a considerable
amount of weight, as politicians may be wary of upsetting a large chunk of the electorate. For
example, the umbrella groups COPA and COGECA represent a large number of farming interests
and over 30 million farmers across the EU. The group has tremendous human resources that is
uses to lobby the EU, particularly in defending the budget allocated for the Common Agricultural
Policy (CAP). On the other hand, it could be argued that mass membership alone dos guarantee
success. Although it is true that COPA and COCEGA do represent a significantly large number of
farmers, they are also helped by the fact that their aims have often been in alignment with those
of many in the EU. This point is also backed up by the anti-war protests in London, where
around two million people marched to protest plans to invade Iraq. However, despite the mass
membership of this protest, Parliament still supported military action in Iraq by 412 to 149.
The expertise of members can also influence a pressure groups success. This applies to groups
like the BMA for example, who are called upon by the government as their members have
significantly more medical knowledge and experience than most legislators. In terms of
financial resources, wealthier groups can afford hire expensive lobbyists, exploiting the
‘revolving door’ in Parliament by hiring retired MPs and civil servants, who are well positioned
to advise the group and utilise their valuable contacts. For example, there was a scandal
involving retired army officers who, for a price, were willing to use their connections to help an
arms manufacturer win contracts with the UK army. Well financed groups can also afford to
make significant donations to political parties, in return for getting their voiced heard. An
example of this is the Conservative Party’s ‘Leader’s Group’, a dining club open to members who
donate at least £50,000 every year, gives members access to the PM and other ministers.
However, on some occasions wealth and financial resources can be problematic. For example,
the above average wages and pensions of doctors may have undermined the BMA’s 2012 strike
over pensions reform. I.e. potentially losing public sympathy.
Finally, I believe on the surface, that the tactics used by pressure groups is the most significant
cause of success. For example, insider groups with that are able to assist All-Party Groups with
their administrative tasks are able to subtly influence MPs. An example of these gifts and
services is when Aviva provided sporting tickets to the All-Party Parliamentary Athletics Group.
However, this is dependant on experience (human resources) as groups must be aware of key
access points, i.e. where best to apply pressure, and also the status of a group as they have to be
an insider group to be able to apply this tactic. As mentioned earlier groups can make significant
donations to political parties in order to gain more influence, this tactic can be highly effective
and prove to be successful for many pressure groups, e.g. the millions of pounds of donations to
The Labour Party by Trade Unions, however this is dependant on the financial resources
available to a pressure group. The aims of a group can also determine which tactics are likely to
be more successful. For example, the Group Class war is an anarchist pressure group, and
therefore are unable to work with the government to achieve their goals. Therefore, they must
rely on direct action in the hopes of gaining widespread media attention to best pursue their
goals. Like in 2015 when a small group of protestors from the group Class War vandalised a
Cereal Killer Café as part of a demonstration against gentrification. They subsequently gained
significant media coverage and although the coverage was widely in support of the café owners
and there was strong condemnation of the vandalism, the topic of gentrification was given
airtime during the media coverage. This new media focus on gentrification could be seen as a
success by the organisation.
Overall, I believe that the tactics employed by pressure groups are what ultimately will lead to
success or failure. However, the tactics that a pressure group is able to employ are heavily and
sometimes entirely dependent on their aims, status and resources. Therefore, in order to
conclude that tactics are the most significant factor in the successes of pressure groups, I must
also conclude that it is not this single factor that can lead to success or failure, because it is
propped up by a combination of the other factors I have mentioned.