No matter what exciting things you have on your CV, there’s a lettuce out there with something better. October 2022 helped destroy a UK Prime Minister’s career. Who still remembers Liz Truss? Memories of the UK’s shortest tenured Prime Minister already feels like a distant fever dream. Perhaps the most surreal element of the whole thing was the national (in fact international) obsession with one key race – the lettuce vs Liz.
When the Economist ran a Leader entitled ‘The Iceberg Lady’, they commented that, no matter when Liz Truss was finally asked to leave Downing Street, her time with actual political power had been only seven days. ‘That is roughly the shelf-life of a lettuce.’ The article ended by saying ‘That is why Liz Truss’s premiership is already fatally spoiled.’
While the editor of the Economist surely thought this was merely an off-hand comment, they had no idea what great political comedy they had just inspired. The deputy editor of the Daily Star, Denis Mann, saw the line and together with editor-in-chief, Jon Clark, immediately saw the potential to encapsulate the whole farce in one neat live stream.
The Daily Star purchased a real lettuce, for 60p from Tesco – gave it a few accessories – and stuck it on a livestream next to a picture of ‘Wet Lettuce Liz Truss’ asking the question ‘Who will last longer?’ The live stream attracted about 1.7m views – with interest from the New York Times and New Zealand, with Stuff using it as an opportunity to highlight rapid inflation in NZ, saying that they could no longer find a lettuce for less than NZ$1.20.
In fact, the livestream was so popular that the Daily Star began offering spin off products – an Instagram filter to turn yourself into a lettuce or a personalised message from the lettuce for £13 for people who felt really engaged with the lettuce’s epic battle.
It was probably the most fun that a lettuce has had for quite a while. After the portrait of Liz Truss fell, (along with the real one – just as she accidentally promised!) Jon Clark revealed that the Daily Star had no plans to eat the lettuce – and speaking for the lettuce, he said that it was actually considering a career in politics – or perhaps lion taming. I’m sure we can all agree it’s well qualified for either field.
The lettuce that beat Liz Truss is definitely the most iconic, but it has inspired follow ons. When Elon Musk officially took over Twitter and a week later laid off nearly half the company’s workforce, one employee Sheon Han tweeted a picture of the lettuce and the twitter logo, asking which would last longer, the lettuce or their login details.
Was this event iconic enough to inspire a new political shorthand, like -gate from the Watergate scandal? Will we continue comparing weak leaders to lettuces, or other leafy vegetables, in the future? Will the stereotype romaine for longer than Liz Truss did? Perhaps not, and I would argue that in a time of increasing food insecurity watching lettuce wilt is not the best use of our time.
The lettuce beat Liz Truss, but it did not beat the consequences of her policies. We are all still living with the increased inflation that at least exacerbated the run on the pound during her time in office – which cost the Bank of England billions to stabilise. We are still seeing the consequences to mortgages and pension funds that this hole in public finances have caused. It may well be that only tinned food will outlast the true cost of Liz Truss’ short lived but dramatic premiership.
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