Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran for 18 months, had a chance to be home for Christmas before Boris Johnson’s careless interference. Her husband says he is not angry but is finding it increasingly difficult to cope

Famous people often swear that they never read their own reviews. Some are lying, but as the policy is manifestly wise, on the whole, I believe them. I cannot, however, recall anyone claiming to apply the same rule to their interviews – until now. Richard Ratcliffe will not read this, he tells me, because “I just don’t expose myself to what I can’t control”. That the only interviewee indifferent to public image should be one for whom publicity is a literal matter of life or death is an obvious irony. But then, almost everything about Ratcliffe’s story is a bitter or bewildering irony.

We first met last year, after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had seized his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as she was about to board a flight home with the couple’s then 19-month-old daughter, Gabriella. The Foreign Office had advised him to keep quiet, but after five weeks the mild-mannered accountant lost faith in the strategic silence that appeared to be getting him nowhere, and took the unilateral risk to go public. That this stunningly self-possessed and sympathetic character could be considered a diplomatic liability struck me then as absurd – and 19 months later his measured composure is even more remarkable, when the foreign secretary’s own carelessness has put Ratcliffe’s wife in danger of seeing her five-year sentence increased to 16 years.

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