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Imagine you are in a foreign country and suddenly you find yourself arrested on charges that make no sense to you. You will undoubtedly feel scared and vulnerable. You could well find yourself in a rough jail or suffer maltreatment at the hands of the authorities for your alleged crimes. You need someone on your side, fighting your corner, and doing so intelligently and effectively. In the case of British citizens abroad, they should be able to rely on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help them out with their case and make sure that they are being treated well during the legal process. It becomes an especially pressing and potentially delicate issue, requiring diplomatic skill, when the other country involved is viewed as very problematic in terms of human rights.
So, when UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, recently decided to comment on the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and her imprisonment in Iran since April 2016 on charges of spying and trying to bring down the establishment, he should have been well briefed and on point. Instead he wrongly implied that Nazanin, who claims she was in the country on holiday with her daughter, was in fact there to train journalists in spreading anti-regime propaganda. This idea was seized upon by those accusing her as confirmation of her guilt and even cited in court. Johnson's intervention could contribute to her spending a longer period in jail. There are also fears for her health, with sources saying she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Boris's continual gaffes make him particularly unsuitable for a role where any wrong, glib, off the cuff remark, or poorly thought through comment, could endanger British citizens, security operatives, armed forces personnel, or diplomatic staff. Whether it's the racist remarks he made about black people being "picaninnies" with "watermelon smiles" or tactlessly reciting the colonial era Road to Mandalay poem in a Myanmar temple, he's proven time after time that he is an entirely inappropriate choice for a role that requires the understanding of, and sensitivity to, those who aren't fellow white, male, Old Etonians.
In many ways it beggars belief that Theresa May chose him for this role in the first place. Was this simply terrible judgement on her part or was it part of a plan to damage one of her main rivals within the Conservative Party? If it's the former then May damages her credibility even more by refusing to admit to her error and correct it immediately by sacking him. If she's too weak to do so after the many other disasters that she and her government have stumbled into, and with two ministers already gone very recently, then that compounds the harm. If it was part of a sneaky plan to destroy Boris, then she's playing power games within her own party whilst causing an ongoing risk to the lives and freedoms of UK citizens abroad in the process, which is abhorrent.
Really speaking, Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign, without forcing May to make the decision. Any minister committing such a clumsy and potentially damaging error in any other UK government in living memory would surely have done so by now. Maybe he thinks he can ride it out but if that's the case then May should step in and have the guts to sack him. Another possibility is that the Conservative Party itself doesn't want a third minister gone so soon after Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, quit over sexual harassment claims, and International Development minister, Priti Patel, went over her clandestine activities in Israel, in which case Boris would be on borrowed time.