lobby groups

lobby groups
   Lobbying is the political activity of influencing or attempting to influence the political process in general and policy-making in particular. It is an activity widespread in politics where different groups and interests seek to influence political actors, such as policy makers, government ministers, MPs, members of political parties, the media and so on. Lobbying can occur at every level of politics, from local government and national parliaments to supranational and international political organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations.
   Lobbying is part and parcel of the realpolitik of all modern political systems, and in liberal democracies is a highly professional activity which has not always been the case. Whereas in the past lobbying occurred through ‘old boys’ networks’, informal, ad hoc arrangements between political actors and interest groups, in the modern political world there are professional lobbying agencies who will, for a fee, lobby on behalf of their clients. Very often these professional lobbyists are ex-politicians, or are closely connected with particular political parties. For some, lobbying is not a problem for democracies since all interests, groups and individuals can lobby or seek to lobby and influence public policy. On this pluralist account of politics, lobbying is simply another way to represent one’s interests alongside the formal voting mechanism. For others, lobbying is inherently problematic, since it is an attempt undemocratically to influence democratically elected politicians, ministers and governments, and lobbying is mostly used by powerful interests and groups to amend government policy to suit themselves. Those that lobby government are not usually the unemployed or single mothers, but large corporations or wellorganized special interest groups such as farmers. With the professionalization of lobbying in recent years and its character as a paid-for service has come the charge that lobbying introduces an element of corruption into democratic politics. Recent scandals in Britain, centred on the unhealthy relationship between lobbyists and elected politicians and ministers (from the disgraced former Conservative MPs Neil Hamilton and Jonathan Aitken, to the more recent 1998 scandal surrounding the lobbyist Derek Draper and the New Labour government) have demonstrated for some why lobbying is an inherently undesirable (though inevitable) aspect of modern democratic politics.
   See also: democracy; pressure groups

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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