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The argument whether pressure groups rarely have any significant influence over government policy has been a debated subject. It is debatable whether pressure groups can have any significant influence on the governments policy or activity however in the last decade the public has seen some success of both insider and outsider groups through campaigns and change in the public consciousness.
The term ”significant” influence defines the accomplishment of the groups main aims or purpose, success can also be defined as the attainment of popularity which is very interesting , as, outsider groups obtain popularity on many occasions such as, Stop the War protest in 2003 but the government claimed that the protest was not representative of the public opinion even though it had thirty million supporters, and even though the group achieved popularity it failed to achieve its aims.
There are certain factors which affect a pressure groups success, this is why some pressure groups are more successful than others. The factors include group aims, status, public mood and methodology. The group aims of a group are very important in determining whether the group will be successful,sometimes, pressure groups have important aims but they don’t fit in with the mood of the public, resulting in the gaining of no or little support. Outsider groups have limited resources and less chance of success when compared to insider groups but this is not always the case as in 1997 the outsider group Snowdrop proved to achieve its aims and influence the government policy.
The group had the aim to ban hand guns and the public reaction to the High School Massacre in 1996 encouraged the public to support the Snowdrop Campaign,this made their aims achievable. The sympathetic reaction of the public towards the victims supported the Snowdrop campaign and encouraged the government to pass the Amendment Act in 97.Group status, resources and methodology of a group are a very important factor to a groups success. Insider groups have a higher status when compared to outsider groups and this increases the groups chances of success. For example the BMA British Medical Association is a core insider group which lobbies the government and has much higher status than fathers4Justice as they have limited finance and their extreme direct actions have gained them a lower status. Often insider groups have unseen influence as they don’t use direct actions and their actions are much more private. It appears that it is only outsider groups who choose or have no other option but to campaign more directly via the media and who raise their aims but don’talways achieve any significant influence on government policy. When comparing the successes and failures of outsider group, there have only been a few successful outsider groups which have used direct action and have lead to some influence on government policies, most of the outsider groups raise popularity and awareness but fail to influence policies. Whereas many insider groups have influenced the parliament legislature. Core insider groups tend to stay off media publicity, but still achieve significant influence on government policy. As professor Wyn Grant said : ” Protective groups versus promotional have greater chances of success, there tends to be an assumption that the direct action used by promotional groups distance them from the government and their chance of prosperity”When referring to lobbying, there have been many successful insider groups which have achieved their aims and influenced policy through the process of lobbying. An example of this is the BMA which supported public health initiatives and encouraged the passing of the new law which banned smoking in public places. Linking on to this the national charity Shelter campaign which aimed to end homelessness had individuals lobbying the government and was involved in drawing up the Homeless act in 2002. Whilst the BMA and Shelter showed to be successful, The Stop The War Campaign failed to influence the government policy. Although the protest of the Stop The War Campaign was unsuccessful in achieving its aims other protests such as the anti-roads protests, the campaign against live animal exports and the campaigns such as Fathers4Justice and environmental groups like PlaceStupid have all shown to have effect on policies and public opinion.The insider group Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) lobbies the government just like the BMA and have been actively involved in influencing the government policies. In 1911 the Parliament passed Sir Greenwoods Animal Protection Act and in 2006 the parliament passed the Animal Welfare Act. A successful outsider group has been the Fathers4Justice like mentioned above fathers4Justice have a lower status and have limited finance, however, this didn’t limit them from encouraging public awareness and gaining support to achieve their aims. In March 2005 the group gained a lot of media coverage when they decided to dress up as superheroes at the Foreign Office Balcony looking over Downing Street. This form of direct action gained a lot of publicity and public support, they influenced the governments actions as the government had to do something about their cause as their cause had gained too much media coverage. In 2006 the Court of Appeal set a law allowing adults to discuss secret cases after they had finished.On the contrary there have been some groups which have failed to achieve their aims but have achieved to influence the public opinion and have achieved to gain popularity such as the Stop the War campaign, Outrage, the Suffragettes and Fawcett Society. All of the groups are outsider groups and Outrage and Suffragettes have used extreme direct action, they have gained popularity and supporters but have failed to achieve their main aims and some of the members have been arrested. The use of Outrages direct action in 2009 resulted in the arrest of the members of the group. The Fawcett Society failed to achieve its aim to achieve its aims of women’s representation in politics and public life; pay, pensions and poverty as women are still getting paid less than men.In conclusion there are more examples of insider groups being successful in influencing the governments policies and they have influenced the governments policy more regularly. Compared to insider groups, outsider groups have had more media coverage and this has shown to help them in achieving their aims as the media has contributed to changes in policies, the work of Greenpeace and Plane Stupid contributed to the third runway at Heathrow Airport. Outsider groups have had some success in influencing government policy but it has been more rare and this can be due to their lack of consultation by government and lack of access to the governments corridors. Overall both insider and outsider pressure groups have a significant impact on government policy and it has been presented on a regular basis.