Former prime minister Liz Truss has called The Daily Star’s viral “Lizzy Lettuce” stunt mocking the length of her time in Downing Street “puerile” and not funny.
Speaking at the News Xchange conference in Dublin on Monday Truss also dismissed much of British political coverage as “froth” that does not seriously engage with underlying issues.
But she said the irreverence of the British media was “a good thing, on the whole… although I have suffered personally from it”.
Liz Truss on lettuce shelf life: ‘What’s the relevance of that?’
Interviewing Truss, RTE journalist David McCullagh pushed the former prime minister on her “mini-budget”, the announcement of which precipitated a crisis that saw the Bank of England forced to buy up billions of pounds of government bonds.
Truss identified a lack of seriousness in the media as one cause for the reaction to her policy agenda, describing it as “froth” that amounts to a failure to engage with “the underlying principles”.
“If I’ve got a criticism of the media – there’s too much focus on the people and seeing it as a sort of entertaining story to follow… rather than discussions of the ideas. And I particularly find that true on economics….
“Did I and my colleagues get everything perfect about communication? No, we didn’t. But I think we’re operating in an environment where the economic ideas that I believe in are not widely understood.”
McCullagh subsequently asked Truss: “On October the 11th, The Economist wrote that if you exclude the ten days of mourning for the late Queen, up until the ‘mini-budget’, you had seven days in control – that is roughly the shelf life of a lettuce. That was an unkind thing to write, but it’s not inaccurate, is it?”
Truss responded: “I mean, what’s the relevance of that? This is what I’m talking about. To me it’s not a very relevant question.”
The remark in The Economist inspired The Daily Star to set up a live webcam feed of a head of lettuce in a bid to determine whether Truss’ administration or the vegetable would last longer. The stunt achieved enormous popularity, making headlines as far afield as The New York Times, and it last week won the Star the Social Media Team of the Year prize at The Drum’s Online Media Awards.
McCullagh asked Truss whether she “could see the funny side” of the Star’s “Lizzy Lettuce” campaign.
“I don’t think it’s funny, I just think it’s puerile,” said Truss.
Earlier in the conversation, however, Truss appeared to begrudgingly accept the tone of the British media.
“I think the British media are known around the world for being particularly vociferous… I don’t think they’re particularly deferential to politicians.
“Certainly, when I went to international summits I would get a lot of sympathy from politicians from other countries who were saying ‘My God, your press – what are those people like!’”
But, she said: “I think the irreverence of the media in Britain is a good thing on the whole. Although I have suffered, personally, from it, I’d rather live in a country where there is a robust debate than what the alternatives look like.”
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