Pressure groups are a vital component of global politics, clearly linking the government and the governed. The liberal democracies of the UK and the US are characterised by their representative functions, making pressure groups a vital part of society. For this week’s HGT Blog, I thought I would examine how similar pressure groups and their methods are in the UK compared to the US.
The first similarity in the methods used by pressure groups in the UK and the US are the access points which these groups target through lobbying. In the UK, pressure groups target Members of Parliament, who have the ability to influence and introduce legislation, making them powerful bodies which pressure groups influence to encourage change. An example of this is Stonewall; they focus on lobbying Parliament to legislate and protect the rights of LGBT people and have helped to change the law so that LGBT members can serve in the military, as well as giving LGBT couples the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples.
Similarly, in the US, interest groups help shape legislation through lobbying members of Congress. An example of this is the AMA, who use grass roots activity to get closer to Members of Congress by encouraging people who may have mutual friendships or relatives with any of the members themselves or their staff. Additionally, in 2013, the US banking industry was successful in helping to draft legislation amending the Dodd-Frank Act, ensuring that regulations were loosened. A Rational theory which enables pressure groups to effectively make change through the MPs and Members of Congress is that they want to be re-elected, and therefore will listen and take different groups’ aims into consideration, as they will be voting for them in the next election.
Another similarity between pressure groups in the UK and the US is the high-profile stunts they perform in order to attract media attention, increasing the likelihood of action being taken. In the UK in 2019, Extinction Rebellion held a large demonstration in London over the course of 11 days causing a standstill to some of the city’s busiest routes. As part of this, the demonstrators chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s house, glued themselves to trains and to the entrance of the London Stock Exchange, and marched on Heathrow airport. Extinction Rebellion gathered tremendous media attention, and similar demonstrations have been taking place around the world since 2018, like the New York protests which have been happening since October 2018. In June 2019, activists blocked traffic in New York, and Colombia University students performed a five-day hunger strike to plea for a response to Climate and Ecological Breakdown, with more than 400 rebels in 27 countries joining these strikes. Both of the Extinction Rebellion methods generated global media attention, and encouraged and educated millions of people world-wide on the severity of climate change issues while pressuring the governments to enact suitable legislation.
A final similarity in the methods used by pressure groups in the UK and the US is the use of social media. Social media is a quick and accessible way to draw attention to particular issues and generate widespread awareness. In the UK, ‘38 degrees’ mobilises people through its online campaigns, and in 2020 many of their campaigns revolved around issues within the NHS. One campaign named, ‘We clapped for them now let’s act for them’, focuses on supplying PPE and testing for front line medical staff during the Coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, in the US the hashtag Black Lives Matter sparked a network of grassroots originations and activists to draw attention to the massive issues of racism within the country, following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and many others. The movement spread across the US and eventually around the globe, with massive protests also taking place in the UK. Social media allows issues to quickly generate support and for further action to be taken, and it is used in similar and effective ways in the UK and the US.
Amelia (Year 13)