Welp, the lettuce has won. Liz Truss, who was the British prime minister until about 8:45 a.m. ET, has resigned—meaning the stunt in which The Star, a U.K. tabloid, livestreamed a head of lettuce next to a photo of Truss, asking, “Can Truss outlast this lettuce?” ended up being shockingly prescient.
Truss took office in early September, two days before the queen died, and two months after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a fellow Conservative, resigned. As a far-too-self-aware Anthony Scaramucci—who lasted 10 days as Donald Trump’s White House communications director—pointed out on Twitter, she lasted 4.1 Scaramuccis.
As we watch the livestream on Thursday (which has a soundtrack that’s included reggae and dub music, plus a remix of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration”), we might ask ourselves: Would Truss have resigned on this particular day if it weren’t for the lettuce cam? Is this Schrödinger’s leafy veg?
Her resignation came weeks after she and her first chancellor of the exchequer (aka finance minister), Kwasi Kwarteng, announced a “mini budget” that was so disastrous that it sent the already-struggling pound plunging. Last week, in a typically spineless move, she fired Kwarteng. In polling conducted immediately after he was fired, her approval rating reached the lowest any prime minister has ever had in the history of polling: 80 percent disapproval.
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Then on Wednesday night, what was meant to be a fairly straightforward vote (against banning fracking in the U.K.) turned into an absolute circus. Among the chaos were party whips “physically [manhandling]” their colleagues to pull them in to vote. One Tory member of Parliament told the Guardian that it was “the most bullying, screaming and shouting” they had ever seen at a legislative vote. Earlier in the day, Truss’s government told Conservative members that the bill was being considered a vote of confidence—which is to say, if the measure failed, it meant Truss’s government would fall apart. While a cabinet minister reserved that messaging during the debate on the bill (which, oof), and the measure ultimately passed, Truss’s government did indeed collapse.
So what next? I think, technically, the head of lettuce automatically becomes prime minister, but having an inanimate object as his second prime minister might be a bad look for the newly minted King Charles. However, it seems highly likely that Johnson will again seek the prime minister post, and that might be even worse for Charlie.
What should happen, in my opinion as a general fan of democracy, is an actual, nationwide election. Legally, there doesn’t need to be one until January 2025, but the prime minister post is now changing hands for the third time in three years. Less than half of 1 percent of the British population—0.2 to be exact—voted Truss in. Perhaps the next prime minister will receive a slightly larger share of the Conservative membership vote (that is, the people who pay party dues and are thus allowed to vote for its leader), but it’s nothing short of cowardly to avoid putting it to the whole of the British voting population. Tories would almost certainly be booted out of government, but they’ve controlled it for more than 12 years now, and it’s not exactly been a great 12 years for jolly old England.