Some things are beyond parody.
When I wrote yesterday about the Chief Medical Officer's appearance before the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, I was working from an agency report.
I hadn't seen the video that my colleague Angela Harbutt has now posted on YouTube. It's well worth viewing.
Apart from Dame Sally Davies' persistent smirk, there are two things that stand out.
One, when asked whether shock tactics on television and packaging works, she replied airily that the "evidence base was put in the consultation (on plain packaging)" before adding:
"I'd have to go back and check what it was."
In other words, although she was happy to imply that "shock advertising" does work, she was unable to say what the evidence is.
Now I accept that the CMO is a very busy person who has to address a lot of different issues, but this is pretty basic stuff. Has she not read the "evidence"? Surely she can remember at least some of it? Isn't that her job?
Two, after declaring that the "early signs" from Australia are that plain packaging is "successful in reducing cigarette smoking", she was invited to reveal the source of the evidence for her claim.
Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen. Her reply is truly breathtaking:
"I had dinner with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health of Australia on Monday evening. She said ..."
"Is that scientific evidence?" asked a member of the committee, interrupting this no doubt fascinating anecdote.
"No," she continued, "I didn't claim it as evidence. I am very careful to wait until it has been properly evaluated, peer reviewed and published. I said there was early evidence, she said, that the purchasing [of cigarettes] looked as if it was responding [to plain packaging]. I am only reporting to you what I have understood as early evidence."
While making it clear that she had a personal opinion on the issue of plain packaging, Dame Sally said didn't want to prejudice the consultation by telling the committee what that opinion was.
Strange, then, that she managed to sneak in at least two comments that made it VERY clear that, as far as she's concerned, there is evidence that plain packaging with shocking images will reduce the consumption of cigarettes.
See 'highlights' of her appearance before the committee here. Watch it and weep.