January 27, 2023 - 12:00pm

Former Number Ten chief adviser Dominic Cummings has confirmed that the ‘Deep State’ is real. Referring to “deeply entrenched institutions” that control “the vast majority of government”, Cummings warned on the Manifold podcast last week that there was “very little democratic insight”. He added that the Deep State is often a good thing, for example succeeding in “thwarting” former health secretary Matt Hancock during the Covid pandemic for the “benefit of the country”.

“A lot of the things that were best in Covid was the Deep State thwarting Matt Hancock, the elected politician, for the benefit of the country,” said the political strategist. “The fact that the quality of the people elected is so desperately bad now across Western governments that brilliant 30-year-old women who no one’s heard of or who no one’s elected are running things is actually for the good”.

The Deep State refers to a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy. Cummings stressed that it was important to “disentangle” the term from the “Trumpian” iteration in which conspiracies abound. “The phrase can be problematic because you don’t want to encourage the idea that there is some sort of generalised conspiracy of officials to thwart democratic politics,” said the Vote Leave mastermind. “You have to treat those things on a case by case basis.” Full comments below:

There are deeply entrenched institutions which actually control huge amounts of what happens with zero to very little democratic insight or even knowledge or understanding. The problem with the phrase ‘Deep State’ is that it morphs more towards the Trumpian question of to what extent are there conspiracies going on.

Now, of course, there are often conspiracies going on in the Deep State but you have to be careful to disentangle the two things. The Deep State is real; it controls the vast majority of things in government and most of the elected people have no understanding or involvement of what’s going on — that’s just a fact.

But that doesn’t mean that everything you read about is happening because of the Deep State or it’s some kind of conspiracy by officials against democratic politics: you have to treat those things on a case by case basis.

Therefore the phrase can be problematic because you don’t want to encourage the idea that there is some sort of generalised conspiracy of officials to thwart democratic politics. Because a lot of what’s happening is — and this is where it gets super confusing and difficult — is that very good, sensible, intelligent officials with genuine public service understand far better what’s going on than the idiots who were elected. They are actually trying to stop the idiots who have been elected from doing terrible things.

That happened during Covid. A lot of the things that were best in Covid was the Deep State thwarting Matt Hancock, the elected politician, for the benefit of the country
The fact that the quality of the people elected is so desperately bad now across Western governments that brilliant 30-year-old women who no one’s heard of or who no one’s elected are running things is actually for the good. But the long-term consequences of this is also that these institutions have been incredibly stale and self-reinforcing. Nothing can change in any way — including the Deep State itself.

- Dominic Cummings

is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.

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