Postcards from YL 1: Czechia

1 Aug 2022

Katharine Macy (they/them) joined the Young Liberals delegation to LYMEC Congress in Prague, Czechia.

When Peter messaged about Prague, I was ecstatic. I’ve attended many congresses, but all online. In fact, while I have been lucky to travel before, they’ve all been school trip-esque, resulting in a small bit of travel anxiety before I took off. I booked my flight with a lot of deliberation and calls to friends, opting for a cheaper one that got me in on Wednesday instead of Friday, giving me a full day to explore, and saving me money even after extra accommodation paid for. Before the flight, my anxiety was high as I was flying alone with little to no experience, but all was smooth and before I knew it, I was in Prague.


Thankfully, Andrew Rushton (former Co-Accessibility, Diversity and Standards officer, who was on Erasmus in Prague) met me at the airport and explained the (rather excellent) public transport there. He took me to my hostel which was designed for solo travellers to meet and I spent my first night in Prague with wine talking to other travellers. I woke up at 8am, incredibly excited.

It was very hot, so hot, I required many breaks as we went up the stairs to the castle in almost midday heat. My phone was telling me it was 28 degrees, and I was melting. The view was worth every drop of water that missed my mouth when using Andrew’s water bottle (top tip: bring one with you). It was beautiful and I could instantly understand the “city of spires” nickname. 

The cathedral was beautiful, the history fascinating and I particularly loved the street that had recreations of shops and reminded me of The Shambles from back home in my city of York. I would highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in the city.

The food was amazing, and the variety of places put even London to shame, though the portion sizes meant I rarely left my plate empty - luckily it isn’t considered offensive to leave food in Czech! 


On Friday, I dressed in less summer clothes and more business, and felt the heat very keenly.  We all did, in fact, as we met up at a cafe for a cold drink then walked across the Charles bridge, another iconic site. We then bumped into some of the German delegation, where they informed me they always knew the British head of delegation as he was the best dressed in the area. We then walked together to the hotel, discussing the journey and being regaled with tales of previous congresses.

When we got there, Peter was instantly recognisable and greeted like a long lost brother and the hard work he’s put in over the last few years was clear in the way many happily greeted him. Sean and I at first stood awkwardly to the side until he introduced us, but were quickly engaged in conversation and welcomed. Many people were at their first in person congress but I was relieved that enough people hadn’t even attended online, meaning I wouldn’t be a complete noob at the proceedings, at least.

Everyone spoke to everyone and it was perfectly acceptable to simply join a conversation of multiple people. Individuals would come up and introduce themselves and I’m unsure if I’ve shaken as many hands in the last year as the last weekend. 

Some of them even kissed my cheek - again, beautifully European - but, just when I had wrapped my head around the both cheeks kiss, someone just did one, which threw me off greatly. I quickly developed my autistic questions I try to have when small talk is expected - “where are you from”, “when did you arrive”, “how did you travel here”. A surprising many answered to the last one that they got the train - my roommate from Bulgaria had been on a ten hour train having pulled a shift in a cardiac arrest award before the journey. I wasn’t envious.

The elections were being held on Saturday so the candidates especially were very friendly, and we took ourselves away to discuss how we should vote.


Since being online, votes have been conducted by the head of delegation holding all the votes, the number of which is based on the amount of members each organisation has. Peter discussed all the options with us and we were presented an opportunity previously to Zoom with all the candidates. Similar to YL, there was an unfortunate lack of choice in many roles, but where there were options, they were always all good options. This meant there was no negative campaigning and the hardest fought election between the Vice Chair actually had the two candidates hug tightly as results were announced. Incredibly wholesome, incredibly democratic, and beautifully European.

How LYMEC works

Every time a break happens, when we come back, we have a roll call. This is where you must say you are in the room to be given access to votes. It inevitably changed every time, resulted in some tech issues with the hybrid aspect and was dreadfully bureaucratic. They announced the party name and then the country, giving me a wonderful view of how many liberal organisations exist. Croatia has three for example. This is perhaps indicative of the voting systems in Europe which allow smaller parties actual power and purpose. The interactions between groups from the same countries were also interesting with the phrase “many a truth spoke in jest” coming to mind. 

It was also clearly far more serious. Many of our sister parties have actual power, they dressed subtly nicer than we often do at our conferences, and took everything rather seriously. Peter’s words to us were “I don’t look quite so out of place there”, and it was certainly true. Despite this outlook and potentially intimidating view when looking into the room or indeed at pictures, I’ve rarely felt so well accepted and welcome.

Indeed, one question to elected members from the previous bureau (their exec) noted the potentially intimidating view and the answer expressed regret at that, although it is a difficult thing to change. Perhaps this newly elected bureau will set their sights to this.


Policy in LYMEC is all accepted and an online working group looks through them a week before congress, allowing amendments to be automatically accepted where the writer agrees with them and resulting is recommendations for voting on policies and amendments - negative, positive or neutral. You then vote on your delegation’s top five motions with the motions with the most votes going first. They refer to policy motions as ‘resolutions’. We finished on an incredibly spicy classical liberalism motion, which showed the different sides of European liberalism and was fascinating to watch. It is encouraged to only speak when you have something to add, resulting in minimal speeches but many of the same faces taking the podium.

The social aspect

In the first evening, we had a buffet dinner at the hotel and then it was onto the beer. Outside of the agenda items, it was easily one of the most social places I’d been to. We spent most of our time with the Scandinvaians, and at one point I was sat between a left wing Dane and a right wing Swed discussing tax, which was both incredibly perplexing and entertaining. 

The second evening, we had a boat party, walking en masse from the hotel to the river (about 150 of us going through Prague), then mingling as we sailed past many beautiful sights. The more beer and wine drank, the more enthusiastically we waved at other boats, and the more fun poses were taken. I was pulled into a particularly Nordic conversation on whether one should be nude or not in a sauna. 

At both breakfasts, someone came up and asked to sit with me, something that relieved me greatly when trying to look upon a sea of people and find a friendly face. To me, this showed the friendliness of the group and (not to brag) a suggestion of my success at being a friendly face. Invitations were freely thrown around to attend other’s conferences or even just visit their city. 

The biggest surprise was perhaps the more subtle queerness of the group. I’ve got so used to “liberal” and “lgbt+” to be interchangeable - in a very obvious way. That, mixed with a pandemic of associating predominantly with LGBT+ neurodivergent people made me surprised that at times, Sean and I were perhaps the most overtly queer. 

However, as soon as the topic came up, many clearly identified as LGBT+ with my rainbow earrings and Penguin backpacks rainbow bow tie often being complimented on. 

Ultimately, my experience of (finally!) having been to an in person LYMEC congress is hugely positive. I regret that we took so long through policies resulting in us just missing the two I had amended and hoped to provide a passionate speech on, but the hugely important Ukraine motions, including a heartrenching  speech on how Russia’s war is a genocide intended to eradicate the Ukrainian culture that will keep me up at night, were at the top and voted for with great enthusiasam.

TLDR: It does seem scary at first, but if you take the time to wrap your head around the slight differences in how it works and put a smile on your face, it’s an incredibly welcoming environment.

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.