The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the end, Liz Truss did not outlast a wilting lettuce

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2 min

LONDON — The question was all over British social media. Who would survive longer: the United Kingdom’s prime minister, Liz Truss, or a wilting head of lettuce with a shelf life of just 10 days?

By Thursday at lunch time, Britain had its answer. It was the lettuce.

This year has been a great one for lettuce, at least in Britain. Its market value soared amid a cost-of-living crisis and record inflation. And now one has done what many Machiavellian politicians have failed to achieve — a takedown of a sitting prime minister.

Liz Truss resigns as U.K. prime minister after six weeks in office

The gag began with an Economist article calling Truss “The Iceberg Lady,” predicting that her political expiration date would come imminently — quicker than the time it takes for a head of lettuce to go bad. After all, Truss’s government had sent the markets reeling after a misfired attempt by the Conservative Party leader to radically reorient the government’s economic agenda by slashing taxes without saying how to pay for the cuts.

An internet meme was born.

The shortest-serving prime minister in British history, Liz Truss, lasted 44 days as leader and lost a Daily Star contest against a head of lettuce. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

The Daily Star newspaper’s YouTube account even launched a live stream. For six days around-the-clock, internet users watched the leafy green smiling at the camera, adorned at one point with googly eyes and a blond wig.

The newspaper declared on its front page: “Lettuce Liz on Leaf Support.”

After a deep endive in her popularity rating in recent weeks — at one point even approaching Vladimir Putin-levels of unfavorability among the British public, Truss’s chances against the vegetable seemed low.

Why Liz Truss resigned as U.K. prime minister: A guide to the chaos

A week of self-inflicted political wounds ultimately morphed into an irreversible death spiral, leaving many social media users unsurprised by the result.

Adela Suliman contributed to this report.

The U.K.'s new prime minister

The latest: In his first speech as British prime minister, Rishi Sunak warned his country that tough economic times — and tough decisions — were ahead. The day also marked the end of Liz Truss’s tenure as Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, after just 49 days in office.

Who is Rishi Sunak?: He competed against Truss to lead Britain’s Conservative Party after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his scandal-induced resignation in July. Loyalists point out that his candidacy received the most support from his parliamentary colleagues. And many of his economic ideas have turned out to be prescient, those backers say.

Why did Liz Truss resign?: Truss came to office with a vision for a low-tax, small government state. Her financial plan tanked the British economy and politicians from the ruling Conservative Party called on her to quit. According to new polling, only 10 percent of the country viewed Truss favorably.