ONE leader had a standing ovation from half the parliament, opened an NHS treatment centre, and spoke of vague plans for a lie-in and driving lessons. Another was given a military tattoo where the band played her favourite punk hit.

Nicola Sturgeon’s final days as First Minister of Scotland have differed vastly from those of Angela Merkel, former German Chancellor and closet punk fan. (Bonus points if you can name the artist and the song she requested at the December 2021 event.*)

That’s the thing about departures from office. Like fingerprints, no two are the same.

Merkel, Sturgeon, and New Zealand premier Jacinda Ardern, had the luxury of announcing their departures on a date of their choosing, giving them some control over their final days in power. Ms Sturgeon’s best laid plans went agley, but she did at least have some and managed to put most of them into practice, including an appearance on Loose Women.



Others have not been as fortunate, their departures determined by the circumstances of their leaving. Nixon announced his departure live on television and radio on August 8, 1974.

Telling a still stunned America that he would resign the presidency effective at noon the next day when Vice-President Ford would take over, Nixon struck a defiant tone, saying: “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is complete is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President I must put the interest of America first.”

Nixon, no stranger to defeat, knew there was no way back this time and his departure reflected that. Others try to leave the door ajar behind them. Boris Johnson’s last address in Downing Street was a rambling and weirdly upbeat affair complete with references to Cincinnatus, the statesman who left Rome to be a humble farmer only to return to high office stronger than ever.

READ MORE: Dani Garavelli on Sturgeon's record

Another member of the glass half full club was Alex Salmond after losing his seat to the Tories in the 2017 General Election. To cheers from the crowd, he signed off with: “So laugh false Whigs in the midst of your glee, you’ve not seen the last of my bonnets and me.” It was a rare case of a politician accurately predicting his future, though perhaps not in the way he envisaged.



Donald Trump went one better, or rather worse, than Boris Johnson in simply refusing to go through the door marked exit. His protege, Jair Bolsonaro, tried to do the same with the presidency of Brazil until persuaded to think again.

The rioting of Bolsonaro’s supporters was at the more extreme end of reactions to leaving office. Most leaders settle for tears, either in public or private. In the last photographs of Margaret Thatcher exiting Downing Street as Prime Minister, flashbulbs light her tearful face, the Iron Lady proving to be just flesh and blood after all. Theresa May almost made it to the end of her farewell before she too was overcome with emotion.

The most nonchalant resignation has to be David Cameron's. Microphones picked up the sound of him humming as he strolled back to the door of Number 10. “Do do, do do,” he can be heard singing. This was followed by an abrupt, “Right, good,” and the sound of a mic being torn off. Anyone would think quitting was just another item on his to-do list before heading to the Cotswolds for a kitchen supper.

READ MORE: Baptism of fire awaits

On the day he left Downing Street for the last time, Cameron had his wife and children by his side, as did Gordon Brown. “As I leave the second most important job I could ever hold, I cherish even more the first – as a husband and father. Thank you and goodbye,” said the Scot.



The Browns, wife Sarah and sons John and Fraser, walked hand in hand down the street to a waiting car, their own one-family parade.

John Major involved the family in what was to be a quintessentially English exit. “When the curtain falls it is time to get off the stage,” said the son of a circus performer. “I propose to see Her Majesty in just a few moments… After that I hope that Norma and I will be able, with the children, to get to The Oval in time for lunch and for some cricket this afternoon.”



No one enters politics thinking of how they will one day leave it. They are not like actors imagining the acceptance of Academy Awards. They know what they want to say at the start of their career, but rarely how to bring it to a close.

READ MORE: Sturgeon and the poorest Scots

Perhaps any prize for the best closing words should go to Tony Blair. No stranger to a rhetorical flourish, the Labour leader ended his flowery farewell with, “I wish everyone, friend or foe, well and that is that, the end.”

*You Forgot the Colour Film by Nina Hagen, considered the godmother of German punk.