Cases studies of Pressure Groups

Case study Revolving door UK Greensill and David Cameron  2021

Can’t pay, won’t pay Soaring costs have given rise to a civil disobedience movement 2022


The BMA is a sectional group whose main purpose is to protect the interests of doctors. It can also function as a cause group, on issues that affect public health. Its professional status and ability to provide scientific evidence give it credibility with government. The BMA had already contributed to the introduction of a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces from 2007. It saw the prohibition of smoking in private vehicles as the next stage in its campaign for a smoke-free UK.

When the BMA first made its case in November 2011, on the grounds that passive smoking is particularly harmful in a confined space, the government had no plans for legislation. Instead it preferred to discourage drivers from smoking by publicising the health risks. The BMA did not secure all of its objectives. Originally it argued for an outright ban on smoking in cars, regardless of whether passengers were being carried. There was insufficient support for this, so the BMA concentrated on campaigning for prohibition when children were being carried. This attracted the support of other pressure groups such as Asthma UK. The BMA used online technology to lobby for support, providing its members with a web-based form to personalise and send to their MPs. It also made its case to members of the House of Lords. A Labour peer introduced an amendment to the 2014 Children and Families Bill, which was passed by the Lords and later accepted by the Commons. The ban came into force in October 2015.

This is a good illustration of successful pressure-group politics. The BMA showed a willingness to focus on an attainable goal. It proved patient and resourceful in mobilising support and using the parliamentary process. It was also fortunate in that public opinion and the government were willing to protect children as a vulnerable group, while they would have seen a total ban on smoking in cars as an unnecessary intrusion into people's private lives.

In April 2019 Extinction Rebellion - a climate change protest group use very similar tactics to Occupy.

Extinction Rebellion

In October 2011 a group of protestors occupied the square in front of St Paul's Cathedral in London, where they erected tents until they were evicted by order of the High Court 4 months later. They were protesting about corporate greed in the City of London, which they held responsible for social inequality. Their actions were echoed by demonstrations in other cities, including in Wall Street, New York. Superficially they had some success in drawing attention to their cause, at a time when the coalition government's spending cuts were widely condemned on the left of British politics for making life harder for the poor, while wealthy people in

the financial sector seemed unscathed. A senior clergyman at St Paul's resigned his post in solidarity with the protestors and there was some sympathy for them when the police were sent in to clear the camp. However, Occupy London failed to achieve long-lasting results. In part this was due to the strong stand taken by the authorities. Although initially they tolerated the camp, when they decided to take action they were determined not to allow the protestors to settle elsewhere in London. Fundamentally, the movement's objectives were too broad and incoherent to give them any chance of success. They represented a generalised hostility to global capitalism and did not have practical, achievable goals. Even if the government had been prepared to negotiate with the campaigners, it is hard to see what it could have done to satisfy them.

The Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) were both highly critical of the Johnson government’s plans to introduce smart motorways. These are motorways on which the hard shoulder is removed to increase capacity. It is replaced with refugee areas (no more than 1.6 miles apart), which drivers should head for. According to both organisations, smart motorways significantly increased the risk to drivers 

Why were they successful?

The tactics they deployed made the most of their professional expertise and insider status to directly influence policy making. In 2021, the RAC’s report on motoring survey showed that 54% of drivers believed that smart motorways made them less safe. According to the AA, smart motorways could leave stranded cars like ‘sitting ducks’. In 2021, the AA and the RAC, together with West Midlands police and Highways England, provided specialist evidence to the Transport Select Committee. On the recommendation of the committee, the government decided to delay building new smart highways for 5 years while their safety implications were assessed

Free School meals in lock down

When schools closed during the 2020 lockdown, children on free school meals were deprived of this provision. This naturally put an added financial burden on the poorest families. Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, whose mother had struggled to provide for him as a child, empathised with their pligh

 why were they successful ?

Rashford determined to use his celebrity status to take action on behalf of these families. He worked closely with the charity FareShare to provide free meals and used his Twitter account to advertise businesses that were offering free meals. This generated considerable favourable publicity, which Rashford followed with an e-petition, ‘End child food poverty – no child should be going hungry’, signed by 1.1 million people. Pictures of Rashford with his mother sorting food parcels generated further positive coverage. As Rashford’s campaign gathered momentum, a growing number of Conservative MPs were also becoming highly critical of the prime minister. Consequently, in a series of climb-downs, the government announced that it would provide a £120 million ‘Covid summer food fund’ and a £170 million ‘Covid winter grant scheme’ for vulnerable families