A pressure group is an association that may be formal or informal, whose purpose is to further the interests or a specific section of society or to promote a particular cause by influencing government, the public or both.
Pressure groups are good for democracy for number of reasons; the most important factor is that pressure group represents the interest of minorities. In the UK we are a representative democracy whereby, MPs votes in the behalf of the people in a constituency, and the interest of the whole nation. However, pressure groups seeks to protect, and award equal status to those in small groups, which perhaps have interests in small issues in society such as the fathers4justice, which emerged in 2003, and campaigned for better child-custody rights for separated and divorced. People who are part of these pressure groups are campaigning for better rights for father, this issue clearly wouldn’t be a national issue, but joining a pressure group you voice gets heard, similarly to elections. If minorities interests are not considered there would be a danger to democracy whereby, the majority rules’ tyranny of the majority’. Pressure groups members receive more of a political voice than those ordinary people of society whose access democracy is their vote during election.
Another reason why pressure groups are good for democracy is the dispersal of power (pluralism). Pluralism is a description of political system where a wide range of beliefs, ideologies and ideas is tolerated and allowed to flourish. A pressure group allows people to access politics all the time as opposed to those, who are only accountable by voting in elections every four to five years. Also political parties tend to concentrate within leadership, on the other hand pressure groups empower their wider membership, and an example is the Age UK which represents public service workers. Pressures groups help disperse power away from central institutions, hence giving power to people and promoting democracy. Pressure groups members are able to express their feelings and thoughts on issues which can influence government decisions, and also being part of a pressure group the public can pressurise political parties to give certain issues priority. An example is the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which works with the Department for Rural Affairs (Defra) in implementing policies related, for example, to farm subsidies, disease control and animal welfare.
In addition, participation is another good factor of pressure group to democracy; inactive citizens are often danger to democracy. When citizens are not involved in political activities this is perhaps an indication the government in power is turning into a dictator, in knowledge that its power can’t be challenged. It’s vital to prevent excessive power, and for the government to be accountable to be people, which is important in a democratic country like the UK. In 1980 party membership was 1,693,156 with a total electorate percentage of 4.12; however in 2008 it declined to 476,000 with 0.96 percentage of total electorate. With declining of party membership and turnout, pressure groups have provided an opportunity for political participation. An example is the taypayers’ alliance one of its main objectives is to raise public awareness, and methods involve campaigning publicity, direct action and e-petition. As pressure groups have taken advantage of e-democracy, and the media members can get involved freely in the comfort of their homes, in comparison to elections whereby, perhaps people with disabilities would find it difficult to go ballot polls to vote, and resulting in turnout declining, they can get involved, and resulting in membership of pressure groups arising rapidly.
On the other hand, it can be argued that pressure groups are undemocratic, and bad for democracy, in many ways. One factor why they can be viewed as being bad for democracy is that they