It turns out that 2022 will be the year of at least three UK prime ministers, with Liz Truss resigning on Oct. 20 following calls from her own party to step down. This would have been no surprise to the UK tabloid the Daily Star, which had been predicting Truss’s downfall in the meanest way.
On Oct. 14, the Daily Star demonstrated its belief that Truss wouldn’t last by setting up a live video feed trained on a head of lettuce, accompanied by the title “Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce?” Gradually, the lettuce, adorned with a set of fake eyes to enhance its anthropomorphic look, was joined by various other props meant to keep the surprising number of lettuce watchers engaged.
So far, the feed has racked up 34,000 likes on YouTube, the most of any video on the tabloid’s channel. Hours after Truss stepped down, the video stream continued to keep roughly 6,000 viewers engaged, the lettuce by now updated with a celebratory smile, and the scene enhanced by party music and champagne as the paper touted its political prescience.
Although the lettuce stunt might seem unusually mean-spirited to viewers outside of the UK, in fact, it’s just the latest in a long tradition of ruthless humor common to country’s media outlets. Whether the topic is the royal family, a major business figure, or the previous prime minister, Boris Johnson, the UK media delights in getting its knives out to craft only the most biting headlines and graphics.
From all appearances, Johnson, with his gregarious speaking style, famously unkempt blonde coif, and penchant for taking chances in public, might have seemed like the perfect target for UK media hazing. However, Johnson, who worked in the UK’s rough-and-tumble news industry before getting into politics, built a reputation for making fun of himself far more aggressively than any media outlet ever could when he served as the mayor of London from 2008 to 2016.
The UK expects to have a new prime minister in place by next week. The leading potential candidates are Penny Mourdant, Rishi Sunak, Ben Wallace, Suella Braverman, Brandon Lewis, and Kemi Badenoch. There’s even speculation that Johnson may return to his role as prime minister, now that he’s been properly scolded for his prior failings over Partygate.
Whoever succeeds Truss understands that they, too, may be faced with the prospect of being endlessly roasted in the UK in a way that would make the sometimes colorful headlines detailing US political intrigue look fairly boring.
Nevertheless, as anyone who has ever watched the prime minister’s “Question Time” knows, the UK’s politicians are well acquainted with hand-to-hand political combat, even if that fight involves rotting produce.