Richard Ratcliffe in 'dangerous territory' as he enters 17th day of hunger strike

Labour's Angela Rayner, Sir Keir Starmer and Tulip Siddiq visit Richard Ratcliffe. Credit: ITV London

The husband of Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is in "dangerous territory" as he enters his seventeenth day of hunger strike outside the Foreign Office, which he started after his wife lost her latest appeal in Iran.

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and deputy leader, Angela Rayner, visited Richard Ratcliffe on Tuesday alongside Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq who has campaigned for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release since the British-Iranian's detention in 2016.

After more than two weeks without food, Mr Ratcliffe says he is seeing the physical effects, including experiencing cold hands and feet.

He said: “It’s definitely getting harder. My family are worried about how long it will go on for.”

Sir Keir told Mr Ratcliffe “there has to be a resolution to this”, adding: “I feel that there is more support now than last time."

Ms Rayner added: “I’m really sorry that you are having to do this.”

Mr Ratcliffe told the Labour leader he was “glad” he had visited him during his hunger strike.

Sir Keir replied: “I hope that we meet again in different circumstances.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq and Labour Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner meet Richard Ratcliffe, and his mother, Barbara Credit: front row left

“There is cross-party support to get you through this.”

Mr Ratcliffe said that he has yet to secure another meeting with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, although his representatives are “pushing” for one.

“We would expect one this month or next month,” he said.

He last met Ms Truss two weeks ago.

“The last meeting ended awkwardly, ended with a sense of this is just not working.”

Mr Ratcliffe told ITV's Good Morning Britain the strike is a “short-term tactic” and said he would “probably” end his hunger strike when the Iranian delegation leaves COP26.

Speaking on Monday, he said is “looking rougher”.

“I don’t feel hungry but I do feel the cold more.

“It’s a short-term tactic. You can’t take it too long or you end up in a coma.”

Mr Ratcliffe is urging Boris Johnson to “deliver on his promises” as he called on the Prime Minister to meet an Iranian delegate at the Cop26 climate conference to demand the freedom of Britons detained in Evin prison – including his wife.

Mr Ratcliffe says his wife is being held “hostage” due to the UK owing a £400 million debt to Iran over a failure to deliver Chieftain tanks ordered by the Shah of Iran before he was overthrown in 1979. An international arbitration process in 2008 ruled that the UK owes Iran the debt.

Ahead of the arrival of the Iranian delegate at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Mr Ratcliffe said he would like Mr Johnson to “take responsibility” and push for his cause.

He said: “The Iranian delegate needs to be asked about it. He (the Prime Minister) promised to settle a debt and he hasn’t, and now my wife is being held hostage. He needs to deliver on that promise.

“He needs to take responsibility for that and the consequences of his failings. I think if he does that, she will be protected.”

Stones with messages by Richard Ratcliffe. Credit: PA

Mr Ratcliffe says he is watching for various physical symptoms that are to be expected the longer a hunger strike goes on for, including becoming dazed and dizzy, losing weight and his skin turning yellow.

He said: “It hasn’t happened yet but I’ve kept warm enough. I’m taking it almost day-by-day.

“The last time I did 15 days and it took some recovery. Now I’m into uncharted territory. It is the first time I know what day 16 feels like. I don’t know how I will feel the next day, or day 17 or 21 or 33. It’s a balance between wanting a response from the Government and not putting my family under too much pressure the longer it goes on.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the response from members of the public who have visited him and written him letters has been overwhelming.

A pile of letters addressed to “Richard Ratcliffe, outside the Foreign Office” sits next to him alongside a number of tents and signs saying “Free Nazanin”.

He said: “People send lots of support and it shows so much kindness. People often get wrapped up in the world and complaining about the Government and whatever and it’s really extraordinary how kind people can be.

“It gives you faith in human kindness.”

On Monday, Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman and writer and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell visited Mr Ratcliffe at the scene of his protest, said: “An accountant from Hampshire is starving himself on the steps of the Foreign Office, for goodness’ sake! We can’t just ignore that like it’s ‘one of those things’.

“Someone in the current Government could be the one to bring Nazanin back while Gabriella still has a childhood. Nazanin is a totally innocent woman who needs to come home to her family. Their ongoing torment is a major failure of British diplomacy in its core responsibility: To protect its citizens.

Nazanin with her husband Richard and their daughter Gabriella Credit: Family Handout/PA

“It’s day 16, he is so cold and exhausted and starving, as a friend I want him to go home. But as a person I understand why he isn’t. My family is everything to me too. If, God forbid, we were torn apart like this I would be equally desperate and urgent to do something to help.

“It’s getting into dangerous territory now, his body will be damaged and I’m just praying he will be able to go home and someone powerful will say: ‘It’s OK. We’re on it. We’ll take it from here’.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is detained over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government, having been arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her then-baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.

Speaking to ITV News on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: "We have always said that there is an outstanding debt owed to Iran, we are looking to resolve that in good faith, but frankly, that is no excuse for the decision of the government of Iran to arbitrarily detain, not just Nazanin, but a range of British nationals and they ought to be immediately released.

"I know Liz Truss has picked up the reins on this. We are doing everything we can to secure Nazanin's release and indeed all of the other detainees."