‘Key people’ at LAD website worked for NI21

The NI21 party election broadcast.
The NI21 party election broadcast.

Key people behind the satirical ‘Loyalists Against Democracy’ (LADfleg) website were involved in behind the scenes campaign work for NI21, the party’s former deputy leader has revealed.

In an interview with News Letter columnist Alex Kane, John McCallister said that individuals behind the controversial anonymous website worked on the party’s election broadcast.

However, Mr McCallister said that he did not know if the group had a wider role working for the party because there were many aspects of the NI21 organisation about which he was kept in the dark.

When Mr McCallister was asked if LADfleg had repeatedly highlighted the links between mainstream unionism and loyalist as part of a “concerted campaign to help NI21”, Mr McCallister said: “I had no knowledge of the LADfleg involvement.

“The only time I learned of the identity of some of those behind it was when we were filming the Party Election Broadcast (PEB): so yes, they were involved in that.

“But my only involvement in that PEB was on the day before it was to be filmed and I was given a quick look at the script. I had to do a small piece at the end, but I refused to use the ‘don’t vote for us’ line they wanted me to use.

“But yes, there was certainly a close relationship between some of the people behind LADfleg and some of the people on the NI21 executive, including, of course, Basil.

“Was there an orchestrated campaign by LADfleg to help the aims of NI21? I don’t know. I had no knowledge of it. But then I had no knowledge of a lot of things happening behind the scenes of NI21.”

In May, as the News Letter revealed some of the details which lead to NI21’s implosion, LADfleg claimed on several ocassions that this newspaper had “an agenda”, while never revealing its own involvement with the party.

Mr McCallister said that he thought the party broadcast — which won widespread praise for its originality — was “probably the high point of our election”. However, he added: “But there was no policy. And no idea of what the Euro campaign was about.

“And on a wider point the whole Euro campaign had collapsed at that point. There was no central team running it. The website was being redesigned during it—about the fifth time it had been redesigned since we started. Basil seems to have opted out—like he knew what was coming and didn’t want to face it. Tina’s results, even in her own council area, were appalling.”

The News Letter yesterday asked LADfleg if it had been paid for the work and whether it worked for other parties but there was no response.

The anonymous website praised the election broadcast at the time. It tweeted: “After the embarrassing PEBs from SDLP, DUP, UUP, et al, sorry to say the [NI21] one is rather good.”

However, in an interview with the Slugger O’Toole political blog, one of those behind LADfleg derided NI21 for how it fell apart. Referring to the party’s ill-discipline and in-fighting, he said that “whoever is responsible for that should never work in politics again”.

* To read the full interview with John McCallister, click here