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Nazanin campaign: Blundering Boris Johnson ‘not fit to be PM’

Husband of jailed charity worker: 'He hasn’t taken responsibility for his mistakes – and that is not good enough for someone who wants to be prime minister'

27 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Boris Johnson mistakenly declared that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran

A FATHER who has gone on hunger strike while his wife is locked up in Iran on vague spying charges has declared Boris Johnson unfit to be the next prime minister – amid concerns that his actions as foreign secretary may have led to her being held even longer.

Richard Ratcliffe was last night (Wednesday) continuing his protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London having not eaten for 12 days.

His wife, the charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was sentenced to five years after being stopped at Tehran airport in 2016 on the way home from a family holiday with the couple’s daughter, Gabriella.

She faces at least another 18 months in prison after Mr Johnson wrongly stated that she was “training journalists” before her arrest.

His claim remains a bone of contention among the Iranian authorities.

International media coverage, campaigns and protests have all failed to secure 41-year-old Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.

Mr Ratcliffe, who lives in West Hampstead but has slept in a tent on a pavement in Kensington during his protest, told the New Journal that Tory leadership front-runner Mr Johnson had not accepted how his casual use of language had deep consequences.

“His great failing, in the prime minister candidacy process, is that he hasn’t taken responsibility for his mistakes – and that is not good enough for someone who wants to be prime minister,” said Mr Ratcliffe.

“It is a severe failing of any potential prime minister. You could look at Theresa May and criticise her for many things, but in fairness she understood her primary task as prime minister was to be responsible – and she was.”

He said that although Jeremy Hunt – Mr Johnson’s opponent to be prime minister who later replaced him as foreign secretary – was ultimately ineffective in making progress on the case, he had at least “been straight with us”, adding: “It’s completely fair to say that Hunt worked hard to build our trust, and built it. He has been straight with us. You know where you stand.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Mr Ratcliffe and, below, London Mayor Sadiq Khan came to pledge his support

A series of MPs and politicians have been to visit Mr Ratcliffe at the protest but neither of the leadership candidates have appeared.

Mr Ratcliffe told the New Journal: “We should be screaming that from the rooftops. Jeremy Hunt has said she is innocent. Boris hadn’t done that. Boris was disengaged, made a mistake, engaged seriously and then moved on.”

Nazanin with the couple’s daughter Gabriella

In 2017, Mr Johnson told a parliamentary committee that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists – when she had, in fact, been visiting her family. Challenged on his input to the case during his run for Downing Street, he has repeatedly said that blaming him only excused the Iranian authorities for keeping her locked up.

Green MP Caroline Lucas at the protest camp and, below, Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq speaks to international press cameras

“The more we blame ourselves or point the finger at the Foreign Office, the easier it is for the people keeping Nazanin captive. That is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. They are responsible and should be held to account,” he told LBC on Tuesday.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was reportedly told she must complete her sentence again this week.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have visited the camp outside the embassy in Kensington.

Barnet councillor Roberto Weeden-Sanz, who is standing in the Barnet and Camden constituency at next year’s London Assembly, has also been there.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “Nazanin did this [hunger strike] back in January. I thought I should do it as well as it makes a stronger statement. The uplifting bit is the level of ordinary people, public concern and care. We have lots of people come up and write things on the wall – some neighbours and people from Camden, but also people from across the country.”

He added: “Someone came down from Newcastle the other day. Really lovely. That basic kindness has been overwhelming. For me, I have been through the campaign exposed to a lot of kind people. But this is a different level of solidarity, of genuine care.”

The Tories are due to announce a new leader – and the new PM – on July 23.

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