Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran in 2016, accused of trying to overthrow the Iranian regime. Subsequently, she was jailed for five years. The widely accepted reason for her being in Iran was that she was on holiday so relatives could meet her daughter. There is no evidence to suggest she did otherwise. As a woman with dual British and Iranian citizenship you might think our government might be keen on securing her release. You would be mistaken.
The foreign secretary Boris Johnson really helped matters when he suggested to a House of Commons select committee that she was actually in Iran teaching journalism. “Aha,” said the mad mullahs. “That proves what she was up to. Put her hood back on and bang her up for another five years.” He was soon forced to backtrack but, disgracefully, declined to apologise. He wasn’t apologetic. He got some of his words wrong. It could happen to anyone, even the holder of one of the most senior posts in government. However, it shouldn’t happen.
Most people now realise that Johnson is a ruthless, narcissistic politician who plays the buffoon as a cover for his ambition. He will do or say anything if he thinks it will benefit Boris Johnson, an illustration of which was his switch from remainer to hard Brexiteer, a cynical decision based entirely on his view that this was the quickest route to Number 10. He is also lazy with no eye for detail. That’s how he found himself clumsily telling a massive untruth about what Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was actually doing in Iran which could end up with her with her jail sentence doubled from five years to ten. In normal times, the prime minister would have sacked Johnson on the spot. In the crazy times in which we live, Johnson carries on as normal.
His colleague Michael Gove today had the opportunity to put things right when interviewed by Andrew Marr. This is part of the interview:
Marr: “What was Zaghari-Ratcliffe doing in Iran?”
Gove: “I don’t know.”
You can imagine Tehran were thrilled with this. The foreign secretary declares that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was teaching journalism in Iran, which everyone else agrees she wasn’t. Then another major government figure gets the opportunity to clarify the situation, to put right a very serious wrong, yet by saying he didn’t know what she was doing in Iran chose he instead to effectively back Johnson’s version of events. Now I am not a close student of Iranian politics but it appears that the government is even more ignorant. I can see, from a distance, that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have acted against the interests of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Words from senior statesmen – and it is difficult to use a word like statesman in relation to Johnson – have an impact. Yet Johnson and Gove seem to have no idea and worse still they don’t seem to care, both blithely talking about the Iranians being the bad guys in all this, which of course they are. But by their comments, they make things much worse for her.
It really is time we wised up to the state of British politics. Theresa May is a dead woman walking, powerless and useless, leading the country off a cliff through a reckless hard Brexit and her major officials make casual, ill thought out, crass statements whenever they like. If they cannot get their act together over this poor woman, what makes people so confident they can get anything right, let alone the most complex set of negotiations since the Second World War?