Liz Truss was sworn in as UK Prime Minister just over a month ago, but the chaos and frying her government finds itself in has many wondering how long she will be able to stay in Downing Street.
The question was the basis for a kind of meme created after The Economist magazine claimed that the time Truss held real control of the government is equivalent to the lifespan of a lettuce.
“Liz Truss has already secured her place in British political history: no matter how long she lasts in office, she must be remembered as the prime minister whose grip on power was the shortest,” the publication said in a report published this week.
The phrase inspired the Daily Star tabloid to put the prime minister in a kind of contest with the vegetable and ask its readers: “Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce?”.
In a live stream created on YouTube on Friday (14), a photo of the British leader appears next to a lettuce with a blonde wig.
Truss was elected by members of the Conservative Party to replace Boris Johnson at the helm of Britain in September after his predecessor, embroiled in party scandals during the coronavirus pandemic, resigned. She took over a country challenged by the economic crisis — and so far she hasn’t been able to get around the problem.
On September 23, the storm hit his government’s door after Kwasi Kwarteng, his newly appointed finance minister, announced an economic stimulus plan that involved massive tax cuts. The financial market responded badly.
Investor fear helped the pound devaluation and threw a bucket of cold water on just over 57% of conservative members who supported Truss’s rise to power. Here and there, coreligionists appeared in the local media questioning her ability to govern and calling for her downfall.
The frying prompted Truss to fire Kwarteng on Friday and backtrack on his fiscal plan. She announced that instead of freezing the corporate tax at 19%, as her ally had decided, the rate would be raised to 25% in an attempt to calm the market storm.
The new name chosen for the portfolio – Jeremy Hunt – has helped dialogue with investors, but has also fueled speculation that allies of former finance secretary Rishi Sunak, who fought for the leadership with Truss, are exerting pressure to remove her from office. Hunt, after all, supported Sunak in the race for Downing Street.
Seasoned and well-liked among conservatives, Hunt, upon taking office, said he agreed with Truss’s strategy of boosting economic growth, but quickly added criticism. “There have been mistakes the last few weeks, and that’s why I’m sitting here,” he said.
“It was a mistake to cut the maximum rate at a time when we are asking everyone to make sacrifices.” It was also a mistake, he followed, to “fly blind” and produce tax plans without allowing the country’s independent tax body, the Office for Budget Responsibility, to verify and validate the numbers.
In a statement, the prime minister said action was needed to “reassure markets” about her government’s fiscal discipline. Among other things, she claimed that the Ukraine War, started by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the pandemic had deteriorated the economy.
“That’s why we act to support businesses and families with their costs,” he continued. “But it’s clear that part of our budget plan went further and faster than the markets expected.”