Basics of Judging British Parliamentary Debate

This sheet is just a basic explanation of how to judge BP debating; complementary experience judging and debating in BP rounds is essential.

Your Role: judges need to rank teams from 1 to 4 (1 is best) and assign speaker points to every speaker. You need to take notes and determine your method/reasons for ranking teams in the specific round.The chair needs to deliver a reason for decision to the teams.

Teams and speakers in a BP Debate

First Proposition:

First Speaker:  7 minutes

Second Speaker:  7 minutes

First Opposition:

First Speaker: 7 minutes

Second Speaker: 7 minutes

Second Proposition:

First Speaker:  7 minutes

Summary/Whip Speaker:  7 minutes

Second Opposition:

First Speaker:  7 minutes

Summary/Whip Speaker: 7 minutes

Key Differences between judging BP and CP:

  • Debaters need to provide relevant examples and apply their knowledge of the topic.
  • Debaters who use information to construct deep arguments are rewarded.
  • More constructive and analysis burden for second speakers.
  • There should be an equal balance between speakers in the first half.

A longer debate means debaters have to keep your arguments alive and relevant throughout the debate. They need to differentiate their team.

How to Approach the Adjudication:

  • Keep track of arguments brought up by each speaker on each team, and whose arguments they dealt with in refutation.
  • Look at your notes to determine role fulfillment on each speaker’s part.
  • Which team stood out the most throughout the debate? Who was in there the whole time, clashing and constructing?

On a panel, decide what the major issues of the round are. Look at who brought those issues up, and who kept them relevant. Reward teams who added the most to the debate and defended their arguments.

Role Fulfillment

In BP, this is important. In a messy round, panels often focus on role fulfillment to distinguish between teams. Sometimes 1 and 4 are obvious but 2 and 3 are not. Here, you can draw differences between the 2 and 3 teams by who did the best job that they were supposed to do.

Note: the point of BP debating is not just to fill a role, but everyone has a specific role and with four teams, it is not always obvious or easily decided who won. This fulfillment is one of the factors that should be considered, alongside constructive material, refutation, and depth of comments.

First Prop: needs to provide a clear model and have arguments that last to the end of the round. They need to stay active in the back half of the round.

First Opp: needs to set up a convincing Opp case and defeat (or bring doubt unto) Pro’s model. They need to stay active in the back half of the round.

Second Prop: needs to provide a clear extension (that you decide is valid), and improve the quality of the debate. They need to provide a summary of the round that is on target and convincing. They need to have been active in the first half of the round

Second Opp: needs to continue bringing new opp constructive to the round, and defeat (or bring doubt unto) the prop extension. They need to been active in the first half of the round. They need to provide a summary of the round that is on target and convincing.

Points of Information:

One way to keep track of POI’s is to draw ticks next to someone’s name each time they get up and circling the ticks when they get accepted. Try to separate POIs in first half from those in back half.

Basics of Canadian Parliamentary Debate

Member

Role

Government

7 Minutes

Prime Minister

(PM)

Build Government’s case by presenting a number of arguments.

Opposition

7 Minutes

Member of the Opposition (MO)

Introduce Opposition arguments, rebut Government’s  case.

Government

7 Minutes

Minister of the Crown

(MC)

Introduce Government’s final arguments, rebuild Government’s original arguments and rebut Opposition’s arguments.

Opposition

10 Minutes

Leader of the Opposition

(LO)

Introduce Opposition’s final arguments, rebuild Opposition’s original arguments, and rebut Government’s entire case.

Government

3 Minutes

Prime Minister

(PM)

Rebuild critical aspects of Government case and sum up entire debate by showing why the Government has won the debate.

Road mapping: Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and tell them what you said.

Prime Minister Constructive (PMC):

  • Introduce the issue by stating and briefly describing the problem you wish to solve or the side of a philosophical issue you wish to defend.
  • Case statement: one or two sentences outlining what you, the Government, propose.
  • Roadmap your arguments.  For each argument, state the point and fleshout your argument with proof.  The more your case is based on logic and observable knowledge, rather than numbers, the stronger your case is.
  • Conclude by summarizing your case and the arguments you brought up. Reiterate the most important thing in this round.

Strategic point: your purpose is to introduce a strong Government case with confidence and clarity, setting the right tone for the debate and forcing the Opposition to work hard to bring you down. Bury a weak point in the middle of your speech, making sure to leave a strong one for the MC.

Member of the Opposition (MO):

  • Take the case the Government presented and explain why their solution cannot work, or why the problem doesn’t actually exist.
  • Present a new, independent argument relating to the case. Your argument is for the opposite of the government’s case, bringing it down.
  • Crash and Burn: Go through each of the PMC points and explain why they fall.

Strategic point: your purpose is to introduce the Opposition stance (the crux of the Opposition case) and to bring down all that the PM just said, making it difficult for the MC to rebuild.

Minister of the Crown (MC)

  • Bring forth an additional one or two arguments supporting the government.
  • Go through the points presented by the MO and rebut them. Take issue with their assumptions, and challenge their premises. Try to take the MO out of the round!
  • Reconstruct the PMC points that were refuted by the MO  Clean up the mess left in the last speech and explain why the MO is wrong. Go through each of the PMC arguments, say what the MO said about them, and prove why they still stand.

Strategic point: your argument(s) must be different from those of the PM, as you are required to add value to the round of debate. Make sure not to spend too much time on constructive argumentation. Reconstruction is key!

Leader of the Opposition (LO):

  • Introduce the bulk of the opposition arguments. Try to maintain thematic consistency, following the stance introduced by the MO but developing it much further with your 3 or 4 points. In general, try to have as many arguments as the PM had.
  • Reconstruct the argument(s) presented by the MO.
  • Go through each Government argument and destroy it. Challenge the logic, the assumptions, the feasibility, etc.  At the end, none of the strong Government points should be standing.
  • In the final three minutes, present a final rebuttal. Go through the round thematically, and explain why the Government cannot win the round. Refute the Government’s strong points and highlight your strong points.  Explain why you deserve to win.

Strategic point: You have 10 minutes, so pace yourself carefully, and watch the time signals. You cannot bring up new evidence in the last three minutes, as that is your refutation time. Hopefully, you have already begun attacking the Government arguments by this time. Use the last couple minutes to look at the round more generally. Talk about the theme of the round, the strongest couple arguments, and why the Opposition has done a better job. End strong!

Prime Minister Rebuttal (PMR):

  • Take the two or three strongest points against you and rebut them.
  • Conclude by returning the debate to the thematic principles you outlined in the PMC.
  • Explain why you win.
  • Note: new arguments cannot be presented in the PMR.

Strategic point: you do not have time to go through every argument in the round, so do not attempt this!! If you can, organize your speech into the main three issues/types of arguments. Take each issue, say a few things about what was said by each side, and show how the balance swings in your favour. End strong!!

Points of Information

POIs are opportunities for you two rise during your opposition’s speeches and offer a question or comment. By saying “On a Point of Information” and displaying correct form (one hand on your head, one hand held out palm up), the speaker knows you are interested in stealing the floor. They can accept your POI or decline it by waiving you down or saying “No thank you.”

You can use the POI to clarify something about which you are confused, point out a flaw/contradiction in the speaker’s argument, or make a comment that will link to something you will talk about later.

It is important to keep the POI brief and to the point (5-10 seconds), but also to keep yourself in the round with both strong use and reception of POIs.

*The general rule in a round of debate: Give Two, Take Two

Protected time: POIs cannot be offered during the first and last minute of constructive speeches. In the LO speech, POIs cannot be offered in the last three minutes, and the entire PMR is protected.

Tight Cases

As the Government team is given the opportunity to provide the case in CP, it is also their obligation to insure that the case they set is actually debateable from either side. If a case set by GOV is inherently one-sided, the quality of debate will suffer and judges know to penalize GOV for that. When constructing CP cases, try to imagine what the OPP case would be for the motion. If there is no OPP case that could closely compete with the GOV, it is likely too tight a case.

Dealing with a tight case on OPP: When hit with a tight case on OPP,  it is best to deal with it as graciously as possible, while still calling the judge’s attention to the fact that it is a tight case (the judge cannot penalize GOV as heavily for a tight case if you do not make the “tight call”). Open your speech with an explanation of why the case is tight by weighing possible OPP arguments to GOV arguments and displaying how even the best OPP case would not be enough to match the GOV. After having made your tightcall, proceed to make the OPP case as you normally would.(Just because a case is tight and you identify it, doesn’t mean you’ve automatically won: you still have to try to “play ball” with the motion you’ve been given)

“Split OPP”

In CP, OPP has the ability to choose “Split OPP”. This would mean that the first speaker gives a 7 minute speech and then, later, a 3 minute summary/rebuttal speech and the second speaker would give a 7 minute speech (as opposed to the usual 7 minute and 10 minute speeches given).

“OPP Choice”

An Opp Choice case is one set by GOV, where OPP is given the opportunity to decide which side they would like to argue. With this type of case, GOV should indicate it being OPP choice before reading the motion. OPP is allowed a minute to deliberate which side to take, during which time they may ask the PM questions about the case, if any.

Basics of British Parliamentary Debate

This sheet is just a basic explanation of BP debating; complementary strategical seminars are essential. In learning BP, debaters should think about specific strategies for each team, and organizational techniques (especially for summary speakers).

Teams and speakers in a BP Debate

First Proposition:

First Speaker – 7 minutes

Second Speaker – 7 minutes

First Opposition:

First Speaker –  7 minutes

Second Speaker – 7 minutes

Second Proposition:

First Speaker – 7 minutes

Summary/Whip Speaker –  7 minutes

Second Opposition:

First Speaker – 7 minutes

Summary/Whip Speaker –  7 minutes

In adjudication, teams are ranked from 1 to 4 (1 is best).

Key Differences between BP and CP:

  • Twice as many teams
  • More emphasis on knowledge (no spec knowledge rules). You need to have information and relevant examples to deepen or extend the debate.
  • More constructive and analysis burden for second speakers. There should be an equal balance between speakers in the first half.
  • A longer debate means you have to work harder to keep your arguments alive and relevant throughout the debate. You need to put more work in to differentiate your team.

Team Responsibilities and Strategies

First Prop:

Defines the resolution, lay out a prop focus. Present a model from which Prop will approach the debate, setting the framework from which Opp can work.

The second speaker: continue constructive material, refute First Opp.

Difference from CP: the case should be broader, in order to make it more difficult for 2nd Prop to expand.  You want to cover as much ground as possible, as long as you can properly deal with each of your arguments. Arguments are larger, less specific in title.

First Opp:

Lays out the opp focus, clashes with First Prop’s model and constructive.

Difference from CP: Opp needs to have more construction than normal, with an equal burden between speakers. Opp is expected to bring up substantial constructive, with relevant examples and deeper arguments. The main strategy is to take 1st Prop out of the round, while building an Opp case that will be tough for 2nd prop to refute and 2nd Opp to beat.

Second Prop:

Extend the debate; move the prop case in a different direction with an explicit extension. Stand firmly on a specified ground. You can make the case narrower or broader, expand to a different region, approach with a different philosophy, anything that is a new element to the debate.

Make sure it is obvious what your extension is. Prove that it has bettered the debate.

Do not forget to refute the last speaker on First Opp.

Main strategy: move the debate forward, but make sure to support First Prop; do not knife! It helps to give a picture of where the debate has been so far, and take First Opp out of the round, to try to focus on the debate on the second half and then steal it.

Second Opp:

Analyze the Second Prop’s extension and refute it. Question the validity of their extension, and try to minimize its impact. Clash with Second Prop!

Expand the debate for Opposition by adding new substantive matter. You do not need a formal extension, but you must add Opposition arguments that are differentiated.

Main strategy: Do a better job that First Opp of clashing with the case, and take Second Prop out of the round. If Second Prop did a poor job, spend more time clarifying how your arguments defeat First Prop.

Summary Speeches: the last two speeches of the round.

Purpose: to summarize the round (not just a rebuttal) in terms of what it boils down to, and to show how your bench- and more specifically, your team- took the round. This speech should cover what was brought up from start to finish, but focus on the heaviest issues. A good way to look at it is as a biased news report.

Structure: can be any way of summarizing- by team, by speaker, or by theme. The thematic approach is just like a classic CP rebuttal, and is most common. NOTE: this is not just a rebuttal speech. You need to deal with the matter by explaining what each team said to the issues, and how your team dealt with them best. Like a biased journalist recapping the round.

Strategy: Show the weaknesses of the other benches, support the other team on your bench, but emphasize what your extension speaker brought up and how your refutations and POIs best addressed the issues of contention. Summarize the round in terms of your team’s stance.

Points of Information

These are mandatory in BP! You need to use POIs to get into the round early, stay relevant throughout the round, claim ground, remind the judges of your stance, defeat your opposition’s arguments, and be noticed in a round of 8 debaters.