The origin story of the lettuce that outlasted Liz Truss
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The Daily Star’s head of lettuce outlasted British Prime Minister Liz Truss.
The British tabloid has drawn in thousands of viewers on YouTube in a live stream stunt that saw a 60p (U.S. $0.68) head of lettuce square off against the embattled prime minister to see who could survive in the U.K.’s current political climate longest. On Thursday, Truss lost.
Sometimes, an idea just needs to be simple to be effective.
When a senior editor at The Daily Star spotted a blistering article in The Economist which described Truss as having “roughly the shelf-life of a lettuce,” the tabloid knew they could send a message about the current state of politics in the U.K.
Andrew Gilpin, associate editor of The Daily Star, told Semafor on Thursday that the tabloid doesn’t have a political affiliation. Instead, it will “call out idiots,” he said. “And there's been a lot of idiocy in our government for quite a while.”
Inspired by the Economist article, editors at The Daily Star set out to make a point about her deteriorating premiership, which sent the country into a tailspin when her disastrous plan to grow the economy tanked the value of the pound and had the Bank of England scrambling to fix a pension crisis.
Armed with 60p, a Daily Star staffer made a quick trip to the grocery store and brought the vegetable to its new home — a secure location in East London. On the same day that Truss sacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng, the paper debuted a front page and YouTube livestream questioning “Which wet lettuce will last longer?”
The stunt saw near-instant success, hitting 17,000 views at its peak, and has set off a chain reaction of memes and jokes which have spiraled far beyond the U.K.’s borders. Headlines from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian have all examined the rise of the lettuce, and the leafy vegetable saw a tongue-in-cheek congratulatory note from Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chair of the Security Council of the Russian Federation – a “surreal” moment, Gilpin said.
No one touched the lettuce after it was set out next to Truss’s portrait, except to add decorations or change the scenery surrounding it. The lettuce threw parties in the evening, and was shown Wednesday with a block of tofu following a comment from former Home Secretary Suella Braverman about “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati.” Following the outgoing prime minister’s resignation, the livestream showed the lettuce dressed up like the children’s toy Mr. Potato Head, celebrating with a bottle of beer, and partying under disco lights to reggae music.
The associate editor wouldn’t elaborate on what might be coming next for the lettuce, which at approximately seven days old has started to show signs of turning. But The Daily Star has already proved its willingness to capitalize on its leafy green success, launching a Cameo page for the vegetable where viewers could pay £13 (U.S. $14.65) for a personalized video.
As of Thursday, four stories referencing the lettuce were leading the tabloid’s homepage.
The lettuce might have more in store for its audience soon. As Gilpin spoke with Semafor, a meeting was underway in the Daily Star's newsroom where, he said, the paper's best minds were discussing what might come next.
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