LONDON — What do British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s political tenure and a wilting head of lettuce have in common, you might ask? They both have an expiration date.
She has also become the butt of quintessentially British jokes — most notably by being compared to a head of lettuce by both the Economist (considered one of the world’s preeminent news journals) and the Daily Star, an entertainment-focused tabloid that brands itself the “home of fun stuff” and regularly features photos of scantily clad celebrities.
The gag began in an article by the Economist that earlier this week dubbed Truss “The Iceberg Lady,” bluntly predicting that her career would have “the shelf-life of a lettuce.”
By Friday, the Daily Star was offering its readers a live stream of a store-bought head of lettuce (worth 60 pence — just under a dollar — and with a shelf-life of around 10 days), positioned next to a framed photograph of Truss, accompanied by the question: “Day one: Which wet lettuce will last longer?”
The live-streamed decay has since attracted more than 350,000 viewers, as people tune in to see whether Truss’s political career or the salad staple (which briefly donned a wig and googly eyes) will expire faster.
The Daily Star accused Truss of being a “lame duck PM” following a “shambolic day,” on Friday as she fired her finance minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, after just 38 days in office and U-turned on tax policies, in a bid to steady the wobbling economy.
Kwarteng, who will go down in history books as Britain’s second-shortest-serving chancellor of the exchequer, was also subject to jokes from the British press — who pointed out that the shortest-serving chancellor had died (Iain Macleod in 1970 after 30 days in the job) rather than being ousted.
On social media Saturday the hashtag “#lettuceliz” was gaining steam, with users unsure whether to laugh or cry at the state of national affairs.
Some online complained they had cheese in the fridge that had lasted longer than Kwarteng’s spell in office, while one transatlantic observer quipped: “In the U.S. we measure such things in Scaramuccis,” referring to Anthony Scaramucci — the short-serving White House communications director, who lasted roughly 11 days in the Trump administration.
The British prime minister also faced criticism for holding an abnormally brief news conference after announcing Kwarteng’s departure on Friday, lasting just eight minutes and 21 seconds.
Britain’s opposing political parties, meanwhile, are calling for a general election.
“Changing the Chancellor doesn’t undo the damage made in Downing Street. Liz Truss’s reckless approach has crashed the economy, causing mortgages to skyrocket, and has undermined Britain’s standing on the world stage,” said Labour leader Keir Starmer, whose party is enjoying a boost in opinion polls. “We need a change in government.”
The smaller Liberal Democrat Party echoed a similar sentiment: “Enough is enough. It started with Boris Johnson failing our country, and now Liz Truss has broken our economy. It is time for the people to have their say.”
Truss’s promise to simultaneously slash taxes and maintain social programs without deep borrowing has left the market and her party members reeling over the last few weeks, plunging the pound and forcing the Bank of England to take unprecedented interventions to quell the financial revolt.
She swiftly replaced Kwarteng (who had been attending a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington before frantically flying back to the U.K.), with a former foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, who pledged Saturday to restore economic credibility. Hunt lost the Conservative Party leadership race to Johnson in 2019.
Truss also walked back one of her top campaign pledges — and will now allow corporate taxes to rise from 19 percent to 25 percent in April 2023, she said.
Like other nations in Europe, Britain is grappling with rising inflation, a cost of living crisis and multiple worker strikes from transport to health and postal sectors, with some predicting a possible winter of discontent on the horizon.
The average price of lettuce, at least, hasn’t gone up too badly.
Karla Adam and William Booth contributed to this report.
The original version of this article incorrectly said that Anthony Scaramucci served in the White House for less than a week. He served for roughly 11 days. The article has been changed accordingly.