George Davis | Dilly-Dalley on Cornwall
The opposition spokesman on health, Horace Washington Dalley, is a likable guy. He's a smart man with the ability to transmit sincerity and authority.
A six-star general in parliamentary elections, Dalley has only been beaten once in the Northern Clarendon seat since 1989. He has forged a reputation as a safe pair of hands and there always seems to be a job for him in a PNP Cabinet. Without doubt, Dalley has built a good career on the back of solid achievement and the fact he has become an expert at playing the political game.
In my time in radio, I noticed that PNP ministers or spokespersons were swift to take umbrage at the interviewing technique whereby I would reference things said and done by them at a previous time to provide context for the issue under immediate discussion. This method often provoked an aggressive response, as if to say I had no right to be holding them to their own statements, comments or actions, lest the public believe them to be hypocrites. And I restrict this observation to the PNP simply because JLP ministers or spokespersons, in general, did not react that way.
I recall all of that as I smile at how Dalley has approached this matter of the noxious fumes being emitted by the malfunctioning air-conditioning units at Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James. Dalley has been condemnatory of the handling of the issue by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, blasting him for failing to manage the crisis.
Dalley's rhetoric suggests that such an issue would have been dealt with swiftly were he still in charge of the health ministry. He also suggests that were he in charge of the health portfolio, such a situation would never have materialised.
In the wake of Dalley's fury, this newspaper published two stories on February 24 revealing that the now spokesman was indeed aware of the air-conditioning issues at Cornwall Regional during his first stint as health minister in 2007. Cornered by the contents of a letter shared in part in one of those Gleaner articles, Dalley admitted to being aware of the issues.
In typical politician style, though, he bared his fangs, telling the paper it didn't matter what he knew or when, given he was no longer the minister. Astonishingly, Dalley told The Gleaner that when the air-conditioning issues were brought to his attention, there was no crisis at that time - only a problem.
In another interview with Nationwide Radio, Dalley said he approved a request for $40 million to undertake the necessary work. Note he did not say that $40 million worth of works had been completed or even started; only that he approved expenditure in that amount.
In that same interview, Dalley's sense of occasion came to the fore, taking the opportunity to tell his interviewers that what Tufton was doing now should have been done six months ago.
So let me summarise what Dalley is saying. He's saying don't blame him for inaction where the faulty air-conditioning system at Cornwall Regional Hospital is concerned. He's saying he's blameless despite serving two relatively short stints as health minister since 2007.
He's saying that in approving a budget for the units to be repaired, he acted decisively and proportionately to address the issue. He's saying that as a minister, it was not his business to address a situation that had developed into a problem. He's saying that as a minister, he only managed things after they had escalated to crisis levels.
Having said all these things to absolve himself of blame, Dalley then correctly exhorts Tufton to handle the crisis. He then skilfully inserts himself into the solution, issuing a press release under the headline, 'PNP offers to help', about his intention to tour the hospital and meet with Minister Tufton to discuss the same solution.
In the way he has played his hand, Dalley will, in the months to come, be able to boast about engineering the solutions to the issue. So the crisis would have been due only because of Tufton. But the solutions would have been due largely to Dalley's actions. I tell you. Dalley is a genius.