What Is the Function of the Loyal Opposition?

The loyal opposition is a group of people, either elected officials or private citizens, who organize to oppose the majority party. Originally designed to keep officials safe from charges of treason, it now applies to any organized group of dissenters who seek to disrupt the programs of the party in charge.

Based on the concept that the people in charge don't know everything, loyal opposition provides groups the opportunity to speak and influence legislative action without fear of legal repercussion. The term is most often used in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia where the Shadow Cabinet watches and criticizes the actual Cabinet. Because the Shadow Cabinet is loyal to the Royal Family, its members are known as the loyal opposition.

Loyal opposition members are in line to become the majority party at any election, which means the former majority party then becomes the loyal opposition. This system ensures someone is always watching the people in power and questioning every decision.

Loyal opposition is a term that is not generally used in the United States, as there is no Shadow Cabinet. The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech to all Americans. Minorities, war protesters and illegal immigrants who affect legislation without committing treason all fall into the category of the loyal opposition.