Insider and Outsider  Pressure Groups

Insider groups Pressure groups  have close ties and contacts with government. They often represent either powerful, well-resourced groups such as those associated with business or industry, or offer specialist knowledge and insights that can be useful when governments are drawing up legislation.

Outsider groups Pressure groups  lack strong established links with government. They often represent more marginalised or radical policy agendas and frequently use direct action to publicise their aims.

Case study: The National Trust 

Insider groups are seen  to have more power and influence than outsider groups. Groups such as the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the British Medical Association (BMA) have  a long term relationships with governments and privileged access to the corridors of power. They have traditionally maintained close contacts with government departments, civil servants and individual ministers. Until Brexit, the NFU especially maintained an important presence in the EU in Brussels, as many details concerning agricultural policy, such as farm subsidies, were made at European and not national level. With the advent of Brexit, the NFU campaigned successfully for short-term seasonal work visas so that fruit and vegetable growers could continue to hire seasonal labour from eastern Europe, vital to the growers’ livelihoods.


Outsiders are much less likely to enjoy close and enduring ties with the government and its agencies. Their campaigning is often more militant and publicity seeking, and can sometimes involve breaking the law. Many use stunts or high-profile direct action to publicise their cause. For example, in July 2015 members of the anti-aviation group Plane Stupid cut the perimeter fence at Heathrow and chained themselves together on the runway, leading to the cancellation of 25 flights. They were protesting against the impact air travel has on climate change, as well as more specifically against the planned expansion of Heathrow. Thirteen members of the group were prosecuted.

Campaigning for fathers’ rights after a divorce or relationship breakdown: Fathers 4 Justice was set up in 2001 by Matt O’Connor. Many Fathers 4 Justice protests have involved supporters donning superhero costumes to make the point that fathers are superheroes.

Types of Insider/Outsider

Potential insiders: these groups, while currently outsiders, seek to be insiders but lack the experience and connections to achieve this. Insider status can sometimes be achieved to an extent by a successful but usually peaceful high- profile campaign. For example, the Gurkha Justice Campaign spent 4 years lobbying the Blair and Brown governments to give equal rights to all Gurkhas to settle permanently in the UK. The group gained a much higher profile when the celebrity Joanna Lumley joined the campaign in November 2008. In 2009, the government conceded settlement rights to all Gurkhas.

 Outsiders by necessity: this represents groups forced to operate as outsiders by virtue of either their cause or the nature of their tactics. Violent actions and law breaking make it very hard for such groups to have any realistic consultation with the government, which invariably wants to avoid giving the impression that illegality can yield positive results. At its most extreme, this takes the form of the ‘we don’t deal or negotiate with terrorists’ approach adopted by all UK governments. Some outsider group aims may also be viewed as too far outside the current political mainstream for policy-makers to take them taken seriously. One current example could be the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, whose objectives include stopping the costly replacement of the Trident nuclear submarine — a move directly at odds with government policy.

Outsiders by choice: some groups, such as those campaigning for civil liberties including Liberty and Amnesty International, may choose deliberately to stay outside government and establishment circles. This is to retain their independence and ability to critique policies, and avoid a cosy relationship with government that could jeopardise their neutrality and objectivity.

Core insiders: these groups, such as the NFU, have a longstanding bilateral relationship with policy-makers over a broad range of issues.

 Specialist insiders: these groups have insider status but only within a narrow and specific area in which their specialist knowledge is required. For example, the British Meat and Poultry Federation is only routinely consulted on issues specific to that sector of the farming industry.

Peripheral insiders: these groups have insider status but are only rarely needed by government due to the nature of their interest/cause. For example, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS) managed to get the definition of stillbirth lowered from 28 to 24 weeks in the Still- Birth (Definition) Act 1992. This was clearly a very specialised area: the government does not routinely consult SANDS on wider child health issues.

Prisoner groups: these groups find it almost impossible to break away rom insider status, either because of their reliance on government funding or because they are themselves a public body. One example is Historic England, which is government-funded via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). One of Historic England’s main aims is to promote the conservation and preservation of historic buildings and sites. But its lack of independence from the state could make it harder for it to resist policy generated by other parts of the government, such as major transport projects including HS2 that impact both the landscape and historic buildings.