AS at many a leaving do, it was not clear if the crowd was there to praise the departing Caesar or make sure he was indeed being buried. But turn up they did yesterday to wave John Humphrys off after his last Today show.

Two past prime ministers, Dame Edna Everage, plus colleagues old and new from Jim Naughtie to Martha Kearney were in attendance – not a bad draw.

The BBC Radio 4 show is not the big beast in the broadcast jungle it once was, having lost a few teeth and a million listeners in the past few years.

But it is still a large enough feature in the media landscape to make the news as well as report it.

For many, Humphrys is the Today programme, and his departure after 32 years and 5,000 shows is one for the diary.

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True to form, the interviewer nicknamed the “rottweiler” for his tenacious style, departed with a snarl and a few barks, before finally submitting to having his tummy tickled by admirers.

The snarl was reserved for politicians who snub political interviews in favour of social media. In an interview with ex-prime minister Tony Blair, Humphrys said Boris Johnson had not been on the show since he entered Number 10 and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had stayed away for nearly three years.

“Increasingly, politicians are talking directly to the people via social media so they can choose the questions they answer without being challenged,” Humphrys said.

His encounter with David Cameron began with reminding the former PM of what he said the day before the 2016 EU referendum: that whatever the outcome, he would accept the instructions of the people and get straight to work delivering them. “That was a false promise, wasn’t it? You misled the nation.”

Cameron thanked him for “32 years of striking fear into politicians like me every morning and asking us questions that we don’t always want to answer”.

It was that kind of morning, when squishy compliments mingled with jagged political inquiry.

It fell to Justin Webb to present a run through of the 76-year-old’s career, stretching all the way from the Aberfan disaster to the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, Northern Ireland, Watergate and beyond.

A move to presenting the news on television followed, but by 1987 he was bored and an offer came to join Today. Clips of his former interviews were played, including the encounter which led to BBC director-general George Entwistle resigning.

“John is not a rottweiler,” said Webb. “That’s the wrong dog.

“He’s a terrier.”

Other colleagues piled in. This was not the occasion to recall past disagreements over pay or who landed the big interviews.

“The annoying thing is he is often right,” said Mishal Husain.

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“So much time, passion, commitment, to whatever stories … He’s like one of those little bunnies with the long life batteries, he just keeps going on something,” said Sarah Montague.

Jim Naughtie said Humphrys had been ahead of his time on the environment, food, and waste: “Inside Seventies Man is a very twenty-first century man.”

And yes, after 21 years sitting alongside him in a studio, the Scotsman missed him.

With the 9am pips looming, it was time for Humphrys to take his leave. There was an uncharacteristic faltering in the voice as he thanked listeners for their “loyalty” to the programme.

“I really do feel that I have got to know you over the decades and you are decent people,” he said.

“I’m more proud than I can say that you have put up with me for so long. Thank you, all of you. I do hope you keep listening.

“Today matters for tomorrow and if that’s a rather corny way to end my years on the programme, so be it.”

Of listeners who had “written over the years, sometimes to give me a pat on the back, often to give me a kick up the backside for getting it wrong or for being out of touch, you’re always right, or nearly always”.

With that he signed off: “That’s it from me and from Today. Good morning.”

Later, the pro and anti-Humphrys camps had their say.

Comedian Kathy Burke joked: “I’ve never been married but being furious with John Humphrys at least three out of five days every other week has felt like I was.

“Think I’m gonna miss the miserable old git. Good luck to him.”

Lord Adonis, former Labour Transport Secretary, tweeted his “delight” at Humphrys leaving, saying the programme needed big change.

“So does BBC Question Time.”