British parliamentary style


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The style is based on the debating tradition of the English House of Commons. The government presents a motion, which the opposition attacks. The aim is to have the widest possible range of arguments: Both sides try to support their position with strong arguments. There is no vote, a compromise at best after the debate (cf. Fischer 2004: 1).


Four teams of two compete against each other per debate (See graphic). The teams on the same side also compete with each other – as in coalition governments, each team must show its own profile. There is “factionalism”: all speakers must follow up on arguments previously made and may not contradict their own side. The positions of the teams are drawn by lot (cf. ibid.).

  1. Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister: Open the debate with their motion.
  2. Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the
  3. Leader of the Opposition: Open the rebuttal of the motion.
  4. Member and final speaker of the government: Closing statement for the motion
  5. Member and final speaker of the opposition: closing statement against the motion (cf. ibid.).

Course of the debate

Each speaker has 7 minutes to speak – not much time for well-structured and content-rich speeches. To avoid monologues, interposed questions from the other side are welcome. However, the respective speaker alone decides whether and when to allow interposed questions. There are time signals for orientation: One signal at 1′ and 6′, two signals at the end of the speaking time. Speakers are not called off – but those who overrun lose points (cf. Fischer 2004: 1).

The opening government must distil a creative motion from the topic and propose a concrete, contentious policy change. The opposition opposes this motion. Each speaker has a specific task:

The first speakers on both sides introduce the topic, the second expands the argumentation, the third speaker has to introduce one more new aspect, the final speaker once again clearly and polemically summarise the debate for their side (cf. ibid.).

Crucial to any debate is the reciprocal reference: speakers must refute the arguments of the opposing side before raising new points of their own. In doing so, they must not contradict what was previously said on their own side. It goes without saying that debates are conducted using “parliamentary language”; name-calling is forbidden (cf. ibid.).

Feedback and scoring

After the debate, the speakers receive a short feedback from the jury with tips for upcoming debates. In tournaments, points are awarded, per speaker between 50 (very poor) and 100 (excellent). Many points are awarded for well-structured, content-rich and cleanly argued, in short: convincing speeches as well as the skilful handling of interposed questions (cf. ibid.).

The evaluation system is relatively simple: content counts for 50 per cent, with 25 per cent each going to “method” (structure and teamwork) and form (gestures, facial expressions, etc.) (cf. ibid.).


D’Cruz, Ray: World University Debating Counsil. In: content/uploads/2011/03/englischedebatte-wudc_ov.pdf. [Access on 09.10.2015].

Fischer, Jens (2014): BPS kurzgefasst: So wird debattiert. In: [Access on 09.10.2015].