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Liz Truss lettuce

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The Daily Star livestream on 20 October 2022, featuring the lettuce several hours after Liz Truss announced her resignation

On 14 October 2022, the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Star began a livestream of an iceberg lettuce next to a framed photograph of Liz Truss, who had recently been appointed the prime minister of the United Kingdom. This act followed an opinion piece in The Economist that compared the expected brevity of Truss's premiership to the shelf life of a head of lettuce, with the October 2022 United Kingdom government crisis occurring weeks into her tenure and leading many political commentators to opine that Truss's resignation was imminent. She announced her resignation as prime minister on 20 October 2022, before the lettuce had wilted; the Daily Star subsequently declared the lettuce "victorious" over Truss.[1][2]

Background[edit]

Liz Truss became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 6 September 2022, following the July–September 2022 Conservative Party leadership election, replacing Boris Johnson. The September 2022 United Kingdom mini-budget was published on 23 September by Kwasi Kwarteng, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, which included tax cuts without matching spending cuts. The mini-budget triggered a heavily negative market reaction, with the exchange rate of the pound sterling collapsing and pension funds coming close to bankruptcy.[3]

After just over a month in office, Kwarteng was removed as Chancellor of the Exchequer on 14 October, and Truss reversed most of the economic policies within the mini-budget. British media outlets lambasted Truss's performance and the ensuing political chaos, with many observers believing that her resignation would be imminent.[4] An 11 October column in The Economist titled "Liz Truss has made Britain a riskier bet for bond investors" stated that, after deducting the ten-day mourning period following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Truss had caused economic and political turmoil after just seven days in power, comparing that duration to the "shelf-life of a lettuce". The publication further dubbed her the "Iceberg Lady", in contrast with the "Iron Lady", a nickname for the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a political idol of Truss's.[4][5] The lettuce comparison was made by The Economist executive editor Andrew Palmer.[6]

The lettuce[edit]

Denis Mann, a deputy editor of the British entertainment-focused tabloid newspaper the Daily Star, read the column in The Economist and on 14 October mentioned it to Jon Clark, the newspaper's chief editor, who saw potential in the idea. On the same day, the Daily Star's video team began broadcasting a livestream of an iceberg lettuce next to a framed photograph of Truss, asking the audience whether Truss would be able to outlast the lettuce.[7][8]

The Daily Star hosted the livestream with the title "LIVE: Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce?" on YouTube. The outlet had been known to make light of contemporary political events, such as Brexit, while generally not adopting a particular political stance.[9] The lettuce had been purchased from a Tesco store for £0.60 with an expected shelf-life of approximately ten days,[4] and was physically hosted in the home of Edward Keeble, one of the newspaper's video editors.[8][10][6] Within the first five hours of the stream, it had received more than 50,000 likes,[11] and attracted more than 350,000 viewers by the following day.[4]

On 18 October 2022, the Daily Star further ran a headline titled "Lettuce Liz on Leaf Support" (a pun on "life support").[7] As the livestream continued, a pair of googly eyes and a blonde wig were put on the lettuce, followed by fake feet and hands and glasses. Occasionally, other items were placed near the lettuce such as stuffed toys, food items, and a mug labelled "Keep Calm and Carry On."[1][4][7] Before the lettuce had wilted, on 20 October, Truss announced her resignation as prime minister becoming, after only 45 days, the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.[1][12] At that moment, there were 12,000 viewers on the livestream, which soon shot up to 21,000. The British national anthem "God Save the King" began to play, the portrait of Truss on the table was flipped face down, and a plastic golden crown was placed on top of the lettuce, with the Daily Star declaring the lettuce's "victory" over Truss.[1][13] The music was later changed to "Celebration" by American band Kool & the Gang,[7] with a Greggs sausage roll and a glass of prosecco also featured.[14] While the lettuce had not rotted entirely, it did show signs of discolouration,[15] with a column in The Atlantic commenting that it was still usable in a salad.[16] By the evening of Truss's resignation, the livestream had received more than 1.7 million viewers.[8] An image of the lettuce was projected onto the Palace of Westminster the same evening, followed by a Daily Star tweet stating that the lettuce "has made it to parliament".[17]

Reactions[edit]

Prior to Truss's resignation[edit]

"For now, Truss romaines in place."[18]

Mothership.SG

The comparison of Truss to the lettuce was received with humour by global media, with The Washington Post writing that Truss had become "the butt of quintessentially British jokes".[18] The lettuce also became subject to betting, with bookmakers who had been previously contacted by Daily Star staff placing Truss's chances of survival past the lettuce as low; on 17 October, a £9 bet at Ladbrokes of the lettuce lasting longer would yield a £13 payout.[6][3]

Post-resignation[edit]

Truss announcing her resignation on 20 October 2022

After Truss's resignation on 20 October 2022, the Daily Star released a headline titled "Lettuce wins as Liz Leafs",[19] and on 21 October published a "historic souvenir edition" headlined "Lettuce rejoice".[20] Bookmaker Paddy Power offered odds of 500-to-1 that the lettuce would become the next prime minister.[21] The Daily Star featured the lettuce on Cameo, allowing users to receive a personalized message "by the lettuce" for £13, with part of the proceeds going to charity.[22][23]

Labour Party MP Chris Bryant remarked during an appearance at Sky News that "the lettuce might as well be running the country",[24] a statement echoed by The Atlantic journalist Helen Lewis.[16] Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev posted a tongue-in-cheek tweet congratulating the lettuce after Truss resigned.[25] Several corporations such as Lidl and Deliveroo posted lettuce-related jokes capitalising on the livestream.[26] In Truss's successor Rishi Sunak's first Prime Minister's Questions, then Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer stated that Sunak lost the first leadership contest to Truss, who herself was "beaten by a lettuce".[27][28]

Clark, the paper's editor, remarked in an interview that the staff at the Daily Star "have no plans to eat Lizzy Lettuce".[8]

The Edenbridge Bonfire Society burnt an effigy of Truss and a laughing lettuce on a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night, 2022. The 11-metre (36 ft) high effigy held a box with a copy of the Guinness Book of Records, referencing her record as the shortest-serving prime minister. The box also contained a copy of her mini-budget, a T-shirt with the slogan "I am a fighter, not a quitter" (referencing a quote by Truss at her last Prime Minister's Questions),[29] and a £115,000 cheque representing the maximum annual amount that all former prime ministers are entitled to claim under the Public Duty Costs Allowance scheme for expenses incurred performing the public duties associated with being a former prime minister and a leaving card. The box itself had a large letter "U" together with the words "This Way Up" written on it, both upside-down, along with "Oh Dear Oh Dear Oh Dear Packaging Ltd", referencing the greeting of Truss by Charles III at one of her royal audiences.[30][31]

On 9 November 2022, during PMQs, a Labour backbench MP shouted "bring the lettuce back!"[32] On 15 March 2023, Starmer said "The lettuces may be out, but the turnips are in" in response to the 2023 budget,[33] referring to the environment secretary Thérèse Coffey's claims that a "lot of people would be eating turnips right now" the previous month.[34]

On 10 October 2023 during the Labour Party Conference, Starmer referenced the lettuce again saying "I never thought I'd say this but I'm beginning to see why Liz Truss won. Although I still think we'd be better off with that lettuce."[35][36]

Truss's response[edit]

On 19 June 2023, Truss broke her silence and spoke about the lettuce for the first time during a visit to Northern Ireland. In an interview with RTÉ journalist David McCullagh, she said: "I don't think it's funny, I just think it's puerile".[37] In response to her statement, the Daily Star called her "fun sponge Liz".[citation needed] Truss doubled down on these comments in an April 2024 interview with BBC journalist Chris Mason, calling it "pathetic point-scoring" and remarking that the lettuce phenomenon "is the kind of thing that obsesses what I describe as the London elite".[38]

Similar actions[edit]

On 14 October, the Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine began a similar livestream of a lettuce being compared to Truss's tenure.[39]

Brands including easyJet and Sekonda ran advertising campaigns making fun of Truss's tenure.[26]

On 14 November, following the audience of the ITV celebrity reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! choosing the contestant and MP Matt Hancock to be the camp leader, the series' presenters Ant & Dec introduced a lettuce called Spud, again asking which would last longer.[40]

During the January 2023 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, the Lincoln Project made a tweet referencing the Liz Truss lettuce to mock Kevin McCarthy, who had failed to secure enough votes to win the Speakership; he later won, but was removed in October of that year.[41]

During the 2024 Scottish government crisis, on 26 April, GB News presenters Tom Harwood and Emily Carver unveiled 'Humza Yousleaf' live on their show Good Afternoon Britain; the lettuce was decorated with a paper beard and googly eyes to resemble the then-Scottish First Minister.[42] At the news of Yousaf's resignation days later, Harwood remarked that the lettuce was "still going strong. Lettuce 1, Yousaf 0."[43]

See also[edit]

  • Out of the Blue, a biography of Truss that had to be rewritten because she resigned before its publication.
  • Plant epithet, a name used to label a person or group by association with some perceived quality of a plant.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Stonestreet, John (20 October 2022). Hudson, Alexandra (ed.). "Our lettuce outlasted Liz Truss, British paper declares, as PM quits". Reuters. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  2. ^ "Liz Truss resigns as UK prime minister with new Tory leader to be in place by 28 October as calls for general election grow – live". The Guardian. 20 October 2022. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  3. ^ a b Hetzner, Christiaan (17 October 2022). "U.K. bookies are betting a head of lettuce can outlive Liz Truss' premiership". Fortune. Archived from the original on 17 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e Suliman, Adela (15 October 2022). "Why is Britain comparing its prime minister to a lettuce?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  5. ^ "Liz Truss has made Britain a riskier bet for bond investors". The Economist. 11 October 2022. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Waterson, Jim (21 October 2022). "Lettuce rejoice: inside story of Daily Star iceberg's triumph over Liz Truss". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d Victor, Daniel (19 October 2022). "The Lettuce Outlasts Liz Truss". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 19 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d Maher, Bron (20 October 2022). "Daily Star lettuce: Editor says 'we're 'not anti-Tory, we're anti-idiot'". Press Gazette. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  9. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (20 October 2022). "The unlikely revival of the Daily Star". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  10. ^ McInerney, Liam (21 October 2022). "Meet Daily Star lettuce keeper who took down Truss with goggly eyes and a wig". Daily Star. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  11. ^ Stonestreet, John (14 October 2022). Heavens, Andrew (ed.). "Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce, UK tabloid asks in Twitter post". Reuters. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  12. ^ Stephens, Max (20 October 2022). "Liz Truss becomes shortest-serving UK Prime Minister ever". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  13. ^ Weaver, Matthew (20 October 2022). "Iceberg lettuce in blond wig outlasts Liz Truss". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  14. ^ Davies, Ethan (20 October 2022). "The wet lettuce that lasted longer than Liz Truss as Prime Minister". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
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  16. ^ a b Lewis, Helen (20 October 2022). "Liz Truss Fought the Lettuce, and the Lettuce Won". The Atlantic. Retrieved 21 October 2022. Frankly, I would rather take my chances with the lettuce.
  17. ^ "Six moments from the PM's six chaotic weeks". BBC News. 20 October 2022. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  18. ^ a b Crisp, James; Rothwell, James; Badcock, James (20 October 2022). "How Liz Truss lettuce news became a global joke". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  19. ^ "'Lettuce all pray for Liz Truss' - PM loses to vegetable in Daily Star stunt". Sky News. 20 October 2022. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  20. ^ Yerushalmy, Jonathan (21 October 2022). "'Will Boris bounce back?': what the papers say as Liz Truss quits and Tories search for new leader". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  21. ^ Shaw, Neil (20 October 2022). "Rishi Sunak will run to be the next Prime Minister, allies say". WalesOnline. Media Wales. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  22. ^ Cailler, Adam (18 October 2022). "Daily Star's viral Liz Truss Lettuce becomes latest 'celebrity' to join Cameo". Daily Star. Archived from the original on 19 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  23. ^ Collins, Katie (20 October 2022). "Liz Truss Outlasted by a Lettuce: The UK Loses Another Prime Minister". CNET. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  24. ^ Mason, Alistair (20 October 2022). "Lettuce declares victory over Liz Truss as PM steps down". WalesOnline. Media Wales. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  25. ^ "Russia says outgoing PM Truss was a 'catastrophically illiterate' disgrace". Reuters. 20 October 2022. Archived from the original on 20 October 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  26. ^ a b Bold, Ben (24 October 2022). "Truss resignation: brands get tactical over govt implosion". Campaign. Retrieved 24 October 2022.
  27. ^ "HIGHLIGHTS: New prime minister Rishi Sunak faces Sir Keir Starmer in first PMQs". Channel 4 News. 26 October 2022. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  28. ^ "'Trounced by a PM who lost to a lettuce': Starmer attacks Sunak at first PMQs – video highlights". The Guardian. 26 October 2022. Retrieved 27 October 2022.
  29. ^ Lawless, Jill (19 October 2022). "UK PM Truss vows to stay, but is on brink as minister quits". AP NEWS. Retrieved 19 November 2022.
  30. ^ "Former prime minister Liz Truss and a lettuce unveiled as town's bonfire night effigy". Sky News. 2 November 2022. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  31. ^ Kingsley, Thomas (6 November 2022). "Thousands gather as Liz Truss effigy with laughing lettuce burnt on Bonfire Night". The Independent. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  32. ^ Crace, John (9 November 2022). "Rishi Sunak the vanishing man zones out in PMQs pasting". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  33. ^ Wheeler, Richard (15 March 2023). "Starmer says UK is sick man of Europe, as he condemns 'sticking plaster' Budget". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved 15 March 2023.
  34. ^ "Eat turnips during vegetable shortage, suggests Therese Coffey". BBC News. 23 February 2023. Retrieved 15 March 2023.
  35. ^ Wheeler, Brian (10 October 2023). "Labour conference: Six takeaways from Keir Starmer's speech". BBC Home. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  36. ^ Swinford, Steven (10 October 2023). "Starmer pulls no rabbits from hats but makes appeal to Tory voters". The Times. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  37. ^ Maher, Bron (19 June 2023). "Liz Truss calls Daily Star's Lizzy Lettuce stunt 'puerile' and unfunny". Press Gazette. Retrieved 19 June 2023.
  38. ^ Schofield, Kevin (16 April 2024). "Chris Mason Skewers Liz Truss For Not 'Lasting Longer Than A Lettuce'". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  39. ^ Baio, Ariana (14 October 2022). "Jeremy Vine faces backlash for live-streaming lettuce to see if it lasts longer than Liz Truss". Indy100. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  40. ^ Carey, Rebecca (15 November 2022). "Ant and Dec launch Matt Hancock vs Lettuce experiment on I'm A Celeb". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  41. ^ Asher, Abe (4 January 2023). "Lincoln Project revives Liz Truss lettuce challenge to mock Kevin McCarthy's chances of becoming House leader". The Independent. Retrieved 4 January 2023.
  42. ^ Dickie, Douglas (26 April 2024). "Meet 'Humza Yousleaf' as under fire SNP leader gets Liz Truss lettuce treatment". Scottish Daily Express. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  43. ^ Harwood, Tom (30 April 2024). "Tom Harwood on X: "Lettuce update: Humza Yousleaf still going strong. Lettuce 1, Yousaf 0"". X. Retrieved 30 April 2024.