Undignified resignations: six of the best

08 May 2015 -


After Ed Balls, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband all took their electoral punishment with good grace, here are six personalities who departed in a somewhat messier fashion

Matt Packer

By any standards, General Election 2015 was a bloodbath. In the space of a single night, the UK’s political landscape has been decisively re-drawn in the Conservatives’ favour, and big beasts of Westminster have been forced off into the wilderness. Already today, we have seen Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, UKIP spearhead Nigel Farage and Labour chief Ed Miliband step down from their posts, while the likes of business secretary Vince Cable and shadow chancellor Ed Balls have said fond farewells to their constituencies after losing their seats altogether.

While their departures have all been smoothly managed, dignified affairs, it is not always the case. Other personalities have preferred to ruffle a few feathers on their way out – as these hair-raising examples of resignations from business, politics and the arts go to show…


Greg Smith (Goldman Sachs)

In an explosive parting shot against his employer in a New York Times open letter, Smith raged: “I can honestly say that the environment [in the firm] now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it … I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them … It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off.” While there may have been an element of truth in what Smith wrote, he was later accused of penning the missive because he had been turned down for a $1 million-per-year pay deal.


Edgar Wright (film director)

The dynamic whizz kid behind Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End and Channel 4’s Spaced was all set to take the reins on his first, major summer tentpole feature – in the form of Marvel Studios’ Ant Man – when disagreements over the script’s direction came to a head in May 2014. While Marvel put out a carefully crafted press release explaining Wright’s decision to quit the film, Wright issued a tweet of a sad-looking Buster Keaton: a director who once famously said that signing up to a major studio was the “worst mistake of my career”. Marvel wasn’t very happy with that.


Geoffrey Howe (Conservative Party)

In one of the most devastating and impactful quit speeches of all time, UK Deputy Prime Minister Howe faced the Commons on 13 November 1990 to attack his boss Margaret Thatcher’s stance on negotiations towards European Monetary Union. “It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease,” he said, “only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.” Howe then urged his Tory colleagues to “consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long.” It was the beginning of the end for Mrs Thatcher’s era as Prime Minster.


Pete Doherty (singer with The Libertines)

Band relations in The Libertines were at an all-time low in 2003, with the errant frontman’s antics – particularly his drug use – crawling on to the front pages, live shows undermined by instability and recording activities at a standstill. With tensions building to a critical mass between Doherty and guitarist Carl Barat, the singer took the unusual step of breaking into Barat’s flat while intoxicated and burgling a laptop, CD player, video recorder, mouth organ, antique guitar, NME award trophy for “Best Band” and £200 in cash. The Libertines did not speak to Doherty for seven years.


Richard Nixon (US Presidency)

As the first US President ever to be impeached, Nixon’s exit was never going to be a quiet affair, and was undignified pretty much by its very nature. “From the discussions I have had with Congressional and other leaders,” he told US television viewers, “I have concluded that because of the Watergate matter, I might not have the support of the Congress that I would consider necessary to back the very difficult decisions and carry out the duties of this office in the way the interests of the Nation would require.”


Johann Lamont (Scottish Labour party)

Following last year’s Scottish Referendum, the then-leader of the Scottish Labour Party knew that the writing was on the wall. While the No vote prevailed, the SNP had won support so many key Labour areas that Lamont’s position was untenable. In a newspaper interview, she thundered: “There is a danger of Scottish politics being between two sets of dinosaurs … the Nationalists who can’t accept they were rejected by the people, and some colleagues at Westminster who think nothing has changed.” With that, Lamont triggered media outrage and completely alienated her remaining Labour support.

For hints on crucial post-resignation tasks such as succession planning, check out CMI’s Checklist guide Organisational Essentials.

Image sources: Greg Smith Herman Estevez / Grand Central Publishing; Edgar Wright Wikimedia Commons; Geoffrey Howe Wikimendia Commons; Pete Doherty Wikimedia Commons; Richard Nixon Wikimedia Commons (public domain); Johann Lamont her website.

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