The fall of Thomas Cook has shown the ugly face of capitalism

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The demise of Thomas Cook provides an opportunity to analyse and make the necessary changes to what is another example of the the ugly face of capitalism and the free market economy. It follows many other major high street stores and brands which have disappeared.

How could the board allow the company its directors are supposed to manage, run up a debt of £1.7bn without taking steps to alter course?

How could the banks, auditors and lawyers who collect massive fees for their involvement ignore the potential risks when the company was making acquisitions and beginning to post losses?

What was the interest rate being paid to the financial creditors who finally abandoned ship last weekend?

If it is proven correct how could the directors strip more than £20m in bonuses during the past five years when the company was losing money or in difficulty. They should be required to repay every penny in view of what has happened under their watch.

Now the liquidators are going to cash in as they decide who is eligible to collect whatever crumbs are left. First HMRC, then the financial creditors, then the shareholders and suppliers and finally the employees and customers at the end of the queue.

Boardroom bosses and the bankers should not be allowed to cash in when companies are posting losses or go to the wall.

Peter Fieldman

Johnson and Trump: what's the difference?

And on the news that “Boris Johnson repeatedly refuses to deny affair with ex-model awarded public funds and access”, the public looked from Johnson to Trump, and from Trump to Johnson, and from Johnson to Trump again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Eddie Dougall​
Walsham le Willows

Our response to Julie Bindel

The opinion piece "This is why the Northern Ireland prostitution review is a complete failure" by Ms Julie Bindel on Friday 20 September commented on research undertaken at Queen’s University Belfast into a review of Northern Ireland’s sex purchase legislation.

In Ms Bindel’s piece we believe there are a number of inaccuracies and misunderstandings which we would like to clarify for your readers.

The first point to note is that the research was commissioned directly by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice (DOJ) which laid down a project specification and six questions which the DOJ required answers to. Methodologically this involved statistically analysing various data sources and left little to the personal opinions of researchers. Had the legislation resulted in a decline in either prostitution supply or demand we would have said so.

Data were obtained from nine separate sources which all point in the same general direction. Namely that the law has had limited impact on the supply or demand of prostitution services and may actually have increased both. Certainly, our statistical analysis of 173,460 advertisements suggests that there were more advertisements for commercial sex after the law came in while the number of individual sex workers in the post-law period also increased by 662 on one particular Adult Services Website (ASW).

Ms Bindel seems particularly unhappy that one of our sources was Lazarus Trading SL which owns the domain names to a number of ASWs across Europe, including those in Sweden and Norway. It also owns the popular Escort Ireland platform. Ms Bindel compares this data to using that from a tobacco company to assess the risks of smoking.

Her view that ASWs are opposed to sex purchase legislation is simply wrong. By contrast, ASWs are flourishing in places like Sweden and Norway because the legislation pushes sex workers off the street and into the arms of online providers. This is exactly where ASWs want them. This displacement effect is what has happened in Northern Ireland and elsewhere and while ASWs may not actively promote sex purchase legislation, commercially it does them no harm.

Ms Bindel does not seem to understand the market dynamics for commercial sex in the digital era. In our study 99 per cent of all commercial sex was transacted online with the street sector falling to around 5 sellers.

It is also important to note that the sex purchase legislation implemented in Northern Ireland was done so despite reservations from the Police Service of Northern Ireland who had to enforce it; the Public Prosecution Service who had to prosecute it and the DOJ who had to implement it. The collective wisdom of these three organs of state was simply ignored.

Professor Graham Ellison
Dr Caoimhe Ní Dhónaill​
Ms Erin Early

School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast

Labour has got it right

The Labour Party stance on Brexit is perfectly reasonable. You push for the final say without defining what the choices are. The referendum came out with a leave result and that should be respected. To campaign on a remain ticket ignores the divergent views of the party as it does the divisions in the UK. When a deal is struck with the EU, or not, then we can have a referendum on that outcome and be better informed of the consequences. That’s the sort of final say that should satisfy all camps.

Jonathan Newcombe

Listening to Lady Hale today giving the Supreme Court judgement was a welcome lesson in how to properly and reasonably consider an issue and how to then clearly and succinctly explain the issues and the reason for ones findings.

Hopefully we all, particularly the media, will take this on board and move away from simply shouting slogans at each other. We would all benefit from trying to learn from this example of considered reason and improve our public debate.

And we should thank Gina Miller and others for making a monumental effort, not to stop Brexit but to get us back to the rule of law and give us an opportunity to consider how we discuss and resolve our differences.

John Simpson
Ross on Wye

No time for scepticism

Several recent correspondents (Letters 22 and 23 September) have accused climate protestors of hypocrisy. While the accusation may be just, it is a generalisation and is not a great argument.

Firstly, don't write off the message because you can sneer at the messenger. Is the message valid?

We are all caught up in a high carbon society. While my footprint matters, much larger changes are necessary to avoid the horrors of uncontrolled climate change. We can but hope that the protests of our young people persuade governments to enact wider change.

Robert Simpson

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