Leader of Opposition

I explain the role of the first speaker in this format. There are 3 main responsibilities, to Respond to the Definition and Set-Up of the Debate, to Present the Team Position and Case, To Rebut the Prime Minister and to Make 1 or 2 Arguments.

Read a transcript of this Video
Questions and Answers on the Role of the Leader of Opposition
Activities in Class or Training Exercises

Brief Notes on this Lecture

The First Speaker on the Opposition Team, or the Leader of Opposition is the second person to speak in the Asian Parliamentary debate format (after the Prime Minister). The LO's speech is what defines where the opposition team will clash with the government team and what direction the opposition will be taking in the debate. He or she has 3 main responsibilities:

A) Respond to definition and Set-Up from Government Team

  • Explain which parts of the position you agree and disagree with. You should try to find some common ground so you can have a debate but also some things you principally disagree with 

B) Present Team Position and Case

  • Based on the common ground and your principles, what is your position and your case? What are you defending? What will you prove and not prove? Do you have a specific policy?
  • What will you talk about and what will your second speaker talk about?

C) Rebut Government Arguments 

  • Briefly outline the Prime Minister's arguments, then rebut each of them

D) Make 1 or 2 Arguments

  • Like the PM, the LO must also develop new arguments. 

Activities in Class or Training Exercises - Leader of Opposition

1. Responding

It's very important for the Leader of Opposition to be able to quickly respond to the PM. LO's need to be reactive and flexible, able to quickly modify the prepared case or quickly make one up on the spot, in case the definition of the PM is not what was expected

One simple exercise is to for the LO to make a speech without any preparation time. This exercise can be done with just two speakers (one PM and one LO) or two teams (having a full team trains teamwork under pressure and the ability of the deputy leader of opposition to also quickly respond). Basically the PM is given the motion and time to prepare. The LO (and opp team) do not know what the motion is - they go into the debate with no preparation time and have to think of a case in the 7 minutes of the PM's speech. A variation if this is to give the Gov team and the Opp team slightly different motions (for example, the Gov team prepares We Would Legalize Euthanasia and the Opp Team prepares We Support the Right to Commit Suicide). Just before the debate starts, you tell them you have given them different topics, and the opposition needs to adapt to the Government case. This activity recreates the scenario where the Govt team takes a narrower intrepretation of a broader topic and the Opposition need to adapt their case to fit the one they are now opposing.

2. Strategic Concessions

For the topics below, get teams to firstly discuss 3 possible Govt definitions, setups and cases. Then for each Govt approach, what are acceptable and unacceptable Opposition approaches? What concessions can they make and can't they make? What is the most strategic approach from Govt and from Opposition? If there are mutliple groups, get each group to defend a different approach and have a short debate or structured discussion about the merits and demerits of each approach.

Sample topics

  • We support the right of citizens to choose to die
  • We would negotiate with terrorists
  • Governments should stop funding space exploration
  • We support affirmative action for women in politics


Question and Answers - the Leader of Opposition

1. You said the first thing I have to do is respond to the definition and I should disagree with some things and agree with other things. Can you give me an example?

- Firstly, you don't ALWAYS have to disagree with the definition. If the PM defines the debate clearly and the problem is exactly as you think it should be, then you can just agree with everything. It's ALWAYS important to find something you can agree on.

- As for an example, here's one

a) The motion is "We should abolish the death penalty". The PM defines the debate as applying to every country in the world (this is the scope of the debate) and defines the death penalty as capital punishment for serious crimes, such as murder. In opposition, you can accept the general definition and scope of the debate, but you can focus it a little. You can say you are going to defend that some countries should have the death penalty if they think it helps them (not that ALL countries should have the death penalty, which is directly opposite of the PM's scope of the debate). Furthermore, you are only going to defend the death penalty for murder (since in the world today some countries will execute people for many other reasons). So you agree that generally the debate should be about the death penalty, but you don't want to argue that all countries should have it and not for many different types of crimes, but just murder. This is a fair debate, both teams have a fair burden of proof. Now if instead you say that you only want to defend the death penalty in ONE country (South Korea) and for one very specific type of crime (serial killers) - the debate can still happen but it has become much more narrow and might not be as interesting (when the debate is narrow, you will also have less arguments - find out more about this strategy here).

2. In Opposition, what concessions are okay to make and what are not okay?

- You shouldn't concede too many main principles or your main burdens. If you do that, you will seem like you are avoiding responsibility. If in opposition I am supposed to defend the death penalty, then I need to do so in a way that is broad enough to create debate. You can concede one or two principles, especially if you think they are hard to defend and that most people agree with them. For example

a) The motion is "We should abolish the death penalty" and the PM says they are going to prove that every human being has basic human rights, which includes the right to life. Also he will show the death penalty does not reduce crime, is cruel and costs too much. As LO, you can concede that every human being has basic human rights, but BUT that does not include the right to life. You can concede it does not reduce crime by deterring people BUT it is a form of punishment that people deserve. The BUTs are important because they ensure you have things to defend in opposition. If you completely concede the first two points, then you are only defending costs, and that creates a debate that is too narrow.

3. What are some strategies for rebuttals?

- Glad you asked! Briefly, you can disagree with the logic of the argument, challenge the argument by providing an example of the reverse situation in reality, concede the argument wholly or partially. More information here.

4. I don't understand how my arguments can be a rebuttal. Can you explain it again please?

- Of course I can explain it again, anything for you! Sometimes what you planned to argue (when you and your teammates built the case in your preparation time) is a natural response to the PM's argument. In that situation, you can just point to the point she made and say you will address that when you develop your arguments. And when you develop your argument, remind the judge/audience that you are rebutting the PM's argument. For example, 

a) The motion is "We should abolish the death penalty" and the PM has 2 arguments; the Right to Life is Paramount and the Death Penalty doesn't Deter Crime. Now let's assume when you were planning your speech, you decided you were going to argue 2 arguments in support of the death penalty; The Death Penalty can Discourage Criminals and that Punishments must Suit the Crime. Now your first argument (Death Penalty can Discourage Criminals) directly opposes the PM's second argument (Death Penalty doesn't Deter Crime), so when you get the point when you should rebut the PM's arguments, you can say you will rebut his second argument when you make your first argument. To make it clear to the judge/audience, you should state the labels/names of the PM's argument and of your argument.

Transcript - Video Lecture on the Leader of Opposition

The second speech in an Asian Parliamentary Debate after the Prime Minister's speech, is the first speaker of the opposition team and that is the Leader of Opposition (LO). Now the Leader of Opposition's job in many ways is very similar to the Prime Minister's job. There are some crucial differences, so let's look at what he or she must do.

Now as LO you have essentially 4 responsibilities. Firstly you must respond to the definition and setup, second present your case and your position, thirdly rebut the arguments of the Prime Minister (PM) and lastly present your own arguments. 

Firstly, responding to the definition and the setup. Now in this part what you need to do is to address how you and the other team or the PM are approaching the problem (or approaching the debate, not every debate is about a problem). They've just told you how they define the debate, do you agree or disagree with the definition? Would you like to provide some additional clarity? Would you like to explain some ideas that you feel the PM has not explained well enough?

It's essential for you to find some common ground. So you can agree or disagree with some things, but you must agree with some other things. For example if we are using the same debate about banning smoking in the university campus and the PM contextualizes debate and says universities are dirty and filthy and people (are) smoking everywhere and that's the problem, you can approach that and say you agree people are smoking in the university but you don't agree that the problem is as huge as and as dire as he makes it out to be. You disagree on the context or the issue on which the prime minister set-up the debate. That's the first thing, responding to the definition and the setup. Remember, as much as you want to disagree with some things, you must find something to agree (on). Without any kind of common ground, the debate will not happen.[More in Question 1 below]

The second thing you do is you present your position and your team case. This part is almost identical to what the PM does. If you have a policy, you should present a (your) policy. You should explain how you are going to approach the debate and what your essential agreements or disagreements are. What are you going to prove and what you are NOT going to prove. It's okay to make some concessions, but you cannot concede the main principle of the debate.[More in Question 2 below]

Thirdly you have to rebut and this part is completely new. Every speaker in the Asian Parliamentary format should respond to the speaker before them. Now the PM has no speaker before him so obviously he can't have any rebuttals but as LO you must respond to the PM. So you must say why the PM's arguments or the policy or the position is wrong or ineffective or what are the problems with what he or she wants to argue. Those are your rebuttals. [More in Question 3 Below]

Finally like the PM you must also present constructive argumentation. You must say, now these are my arguments. In your position part where you are presenting the team case, you would have said what you are going to talk about and what your second speaker is going to talk about, so at this point you should deliver those arguments. Now doing rebuttals and arguments can be a lot of things to do, so the LO needs to be responsive and be able to change and adapt to what is happening in the debate. Sometimes if your argument is also a rebuttal because it serves to rebut the other (side's)argument, you can tell people that. You can say, "I'm going to rebut his arguments when I talk about my argument" (example below) and then later, when you talk about your argument, you can say "This argument defeats their argument on the other side". You can watch an example and see how these things work, and how the LO structures his or her speech. [More in Question 4 Below]

Basically it's quite similar to a PM speech - you need to respond to the definition and set-up, present your own position and case, how you are going to approach the debate and then you have rebuttals to engage the PM's arguments and finally provide your own arguments.