19/05/2015 17:40 BST | Updated 19/05/2016 06:59 BST

Ian Duncan Smith's Back-to-Cabaret Scheme


After it was confirmed that Ian Duncan Smith would remain in cabinet as the work and pensions secretary, he wasted no time and pressed ahead with his welfare reforms, one of note being the back-to-cabaret scheme.

The scheme aims to get cabaret performers that have been off the stage for 6 months or more back into performing, helping them to rehearse and remain in the cabaret scene. However, the scheme has been criticised due to the fact that the majority of placements are unpaid and involve long hours waiting in cold and damp backstage areas in East London pubs.

A key part of the scheme is the Mandatory Drama Games programme, which involves playing Zip Zap Boing for eight hours a day, five days a week, with only a half an hour lunch break. Failure to attend these sessions will result in claimants losing their Jobseeker's Allowance.

In one particular incident from my own history at the Job Centre, I was given a stern talking to for not looking enthusiastic enough whilst saying 'Boing!' during one of the sessions. I was told I wasn't taking it seriously and was subsequently made to attend a weekly Zip Zap Boing workshop at Hounslow Civic Centre.

In response to several complaints from claimants about the mandatory drama games programme, a spokesperson for The Department of Work and Pensions has said, 'well that's cabaret, darling.'

It seems that the problem lies in a misunderstanding of what cabaret entails. During a televised interview, David Cameron was asked whether he could do cabaret.

I want to create a country where more people can regularly perform within the cabaret scene. Well, the point is that some people choose to be cabaret performers, and being on stage for three minutes at half one in the morning works for them. No, I couldn't do cabaret... I'm more into performance art.

Cameron further displayed his ignorance on the subject with a gaffe at a pre-election gallery event in South London, where he urged voters to enjoy the durational works of Liza Minelli, when he actually meant Marina Abramović.

The problem lies in politicians being disconnected from the policies and schemes they impose upon the country. If Ian Duncan Smith was better informed about the implications his reforms entailed, maybe he would be enlightened to the absurdity of the whole thing. If, for instance, he were to perform a strip tease to Carly Rae Jepson's 'I Really Like You' whilst dressed as a 1950's housewife in a pub in New Cross, perhaps he would know what it takes to be a cabaret performer and re-evaluate his plans for welfare reform.

It is uncertain if ex co-chairman Grant Shapps will take part in the back-to-cabaret scheme now that he's no longer in cabinet. According to his Wikipedia page, he played both Jean Valjean and Javert in a production of Les Miserables, so he should have no trouble finding roles in the West End.