Pressure groups are common place within the contemporary political system; Collins English Dictionary defines such an organisation as "a group of people who seek to exert pressure on legislators, public opinion, etc, in order to promote their own ideas or welfare." There are many different forms of pressure group; they can be insider or outsider, sectional or causal. It is important to distinguish between pressure groups and political parties; pressure groups do not seek political power, instead they aim to influence government policy. This essay will define the principal types of pressure group and distinguish between their different objectives. Furthermore, it will examine a case study of one particular pressure group, Fathers 4 Justice, and consider it from a public relations perspective. It is important to discuss the group's relationship not only with the Government, but also with the media and the public. With the ever increasing importance of the media in politics today it is useful to discover how pressure groups use them to convey their message to the public and how the media alters the public's perception of pressure groups. The term "pressure group" often gives the impression to the public that such bodies use force to achieve their aims, but for the most part this is not the case. In order to promote their objectives to the public and the Government, pressure groups use a wide range of means including petitions, adverts, events, demonstrations, strikes and boycotts. These events generate media attention which in turn increases the nation's awareness of the pressure group. In order to do try and influence policy, the pressure group must develop a strong relationship with its local or national Government. Unfortunately, only certain pressure groups are able to achieve this rapport, and these are known as insider groups. Insider groups are seen as legitimate by their local and/or national government, and are therefore allowed access to the decision makers within such authorities. They attend regular meetings with Government ministers to discuss new policy proposals that may affect their group. Governments use insider groups as a source of information, as the pressure groups do a vast amount of specialist research into their cause' which is highly valued by decision makers. For example, MIND (a pressure group for mental health issues) does a great amount of research into the causes, prevention and cures for people with mental health illnesses. They provide this information to the Government, and due to this input they are consulted on policy and also receive government funding to develop their research further. Insider groups fall into two categories; state institutions such as the police and the Church of England, who are consulted on matters related to their activities, and also external groups, which include trade unions and charities whose specialist knowledge is utilised by the Government when new policies are being formulated. The majority of insider groups are described as sectional' as they represent a section of society with a universal interest; the best example is the trade union, whose members stand to gain professionally and economically from belonging to such an organisation. Membership of these pressure groups is restricted, as their objectives are directly related to the section of society they represent, for example the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Farmers' Union (NFU) represent only teachers and farmers. Sectional groups often have greater political leverage than causal groups, as many of them have the ability to deny vital services to the public; this is often used as a bargaining tool between a trade union and the Government (for example the miners' strikes of the 1970s). In contrast outsider pressure groups, as their name suggests, do not have access to decision makers within the Government (for example Greenpeace). Many outsider groups wish to become insider but often...
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