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Police fail in legal bid to force journalist and ex-MP Chris Mullin to reveal source for Birmingham Six exposé – live | Politics


Good morning. Most media commentators found Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe commendably impressive when she held a press conference yesterday, but on social media she received some criticism from people who thought she was wrong to criticise the government when it had secured her release by paying £400m to Iran. (It was money that the UK has owed Iran for decades, not a ransom payment, but that distinction got overlooked in the shouty corridors of Twitter, where nuance never survives.)

This morning one of the former foreign secretaries whom Zaghari-Ratcliffe accused of not doing enough to help her came to her defence. She was right, said Jeremy Hunt. In an unusually candid admission from a former minister, Hunt used a thread on Twitter to say that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was failed by government.

Hunt also joins Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, their MP Tulip Siddiq, and the former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt in backing calls for an inquiry into what went wrong.

And he also points to a structural problem within government that may have made the situation worse. In the UK secretaries of state on average stay in post for less than two years (compared to nearer three years in Germany). And, as Zaghari-Ratcliffe pointed out yesterday, there were five foreign secretaries over the six years she was detained in Iran. If any of them had stayed in post longer, they might have made more progress.

(Part of the problem, though, was that there were also three prime ministers, and a new PM normally wants a new foreign secretary.)

Here is Hunt’s Twitter thread in full.

Jeremy Hunt
(@Jeremy_Hunt)

Those criticizing Nazanin have got it so wrong. She doesn’t owe us gratitude: we owe her an explanation…


March 22, 2022

Jeremy Hunt
(@Jeremy_Hunt)

She’s absolutely right that it took too long to bring her home. I tried my best – as did other foreign secretaries – but if trying our best took six years then we must be honest and say the problem should have been solved earlier.


March 22, 2022

Jeremy Hunt
(@Jeremy_Hunt)

Ministerial turnover may have been a factor. So might initial reluctance to pay the debt because people worried it would look like a ransom. So undoubtedly were the complications over how to pay a country that is sanctioned.


March 22, 2022

Jeremy Hunt
(@Jeremy_Hunt)

But it is right that an independent investigation now takes place as to what those reasons were, something I would be glad to assist with. Such a review also needs to assess whether our current policy is sufficient to stop hostage taking in the future.


March 22, 2022

Jeremy Hunt
(@Jeremy_Hunt)

If democracies can show such impressive unity on Russian sanctions, surely we can do the same to stamp out the 19th century practice of hostage taking?


March 22, 2022

Jeremy Hunt
(@Jeremy_Hunt)

PS this kind of open scrutiny as to whether we could do things better is what happens in democratic, open societies. It may be something they don’t welcome in places like Iran and Russia but it is why, ultimately, we are wiser and stronger.


March 22, 2022

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Judgment is delivered in the case brought by West Midlands police against the former Labour minister Chris Mullin, who is refusing to reveal source material for his acclaimed 1980s book revealing the conviction of the Birmingham Six over the pub bombings in the city to be a miscarriage of justice.

9.30am: The ONS publishes new figures on excess deaths in England and Wales from March 2020 to December 2021.

10.15am: Sir Parick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, gives evidence to the Lords science committee on a UK science and technology strategy.

11am: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit minister, and Neil O’Brien, the levelling up minister, give evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee about procurement strategy.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

After 12.30pm: MPs debate the Lords amendments to the nationality and borders bill.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.




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