BORIS Johnson is facing renewed criticism over his mistake about a British citizen accused by Iran of spying, after state TV described it as an “inadvertent confession” of her guilt.

The family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said they were “horrified and distressed” at the development, which added to fears she could face an extra five years in jail.

Mr Johnson last week told MPs she was training journalists when she was detained 18 months ago, despite her defence being that she was simply visiting her relatives.

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It led to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe being told she faced new charges which could result in her current five year sentence being double.

Mr Johnson reluctantly corrected his account and offered a grudging apology, but failed to dispel the impression among some of his fellow Tory MPs that he is unfit for office.

He also spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Zavad Jarif, about the case this week.

However on Wednesday Iranian state TV broadcast a news item saying Mr Johnson’s unintended confession had revealed the true nature of Ms Zahari-Ratcliffe’s tript.

The news added to the sense of rolling crisis in Theresa May’s government, and meant she was unable to a draw a line under a torrid week in which two cabinet ministers had to quit.

Priti Patel resigned as International Development Secretary on Wednesday after holding unsanctioned meetings with Israel’s prime minister and others while on holiday in August, then hiding facts from Downing Street.

Known to harbour leadership ambitions, Ms Patel is understood to be planning to relaunch her career in the New Year as a backbench champion of Brexit.

Her exit came seven days after Sir Michael Fallon quit as Defence Secretary after being accused of sexual misconduct and admitting he had fallen below the required standards.

Ms Patel’s replacement was announced as Penny Mordaunt, the popular Portsmouth MP who has been a minister in both defence and work and pensions portfolios.

Like Ms Patel, she is a prominent advocate of Brexit, and so maintains the balance of Leavers and Remainers in the cabinet.

Her Labour shadow, Kate Osamor, said she faced “an immediate challenge of restoring integrity to British international development policy” after Ms Patel went rogue.

Sarah Newton also replaced Ms Mordaunt at work and pensions and Victoria Atkins, who last year called Donald Trump a “wazzock”, was made a minister at the Home Office.

On a visit to America, Mr Johnson yesterday hailed the President as “one of the great huge global brands”.

However it is remarks about Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe which continue to cause the most controversy and add to the sense of rolling crisis in Theresa May’s government.

Her husband Richard said it felt as if “parts of the Iranian regime are still using the Foreign Secretary's comments against Nanzanin”.

Her parents were reported to have watched the news report in "horror" last night and were described as being in a “state of shock and disbelief”.

They said Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s three-year-old daughter, who was in Iran when her mother was detained and now stays with her grandparents, was said to be too distressed to eat.

Former Tory minister Anna Soubry said Mr Johnson’s words were “wholly inaccurate”.

She said: “If they are continuing to damage this woman’s well-being and putting her in more peril of continuing unlawful incarceration, then the Foreign Secretary must step down and he must go immediately.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry called on Mr Johnson to apologise unreservedly to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family, adding: “If he does not have the basic gumption to do that, he deserves to lose his job immediately.”

The former head of the diplomatic service Lord Rickett told the BBC that Mr Johnson’s conduct was a “real problem” for Britain.

He said: “It just shows that the precise words you use as Foreign Secretary are really important. The country needs a Foreign Secretary who projects authority and commands respect. He has not succeeded in convincing people he is a serious heavy-weight politician.”