Eliding democracy

There is little debate on one of the most important reforms to affect the United Kingdom, namely, the establishment of a Supreme Court. This will not really be the supreme court, since that will be the European Court, located in Brussels. Nevertheless, the separation of the judiciary from the legislature poses an unprecedented challenge to parliamentary sovereignty. This completes the work that entry into Europe started in 1973, neutering Parliament and hollowing out our elected representatives.

Bodies with power look for monuments to represent themselves. Labour's constitutional reform, with its new memorials to Scottish and Welsh subsidy, prove equal to the task. The Supreme Court will be located in the Guildhall on Parliament Square, an imposing facade at the heart of our democracy, whilst the internal Gothic courts will be renovated. The original plans were alarming:

The Pugin interiors of the Houses of Parliament have been restored with infinite care and pride over more than 20 years. Yet just across Parliament Square the Department of Constitutional Affairs is proposing to strip out Gothic Revival interiors of equal quality and completeness for the proposed new Supreme Court.

The vandalism is the greater as the building in question, the Middlesex Guildhall, is far from redundant and in intensive use as one of London’s busiest criminal courts, the purpose for which it was designed. Designed by JGS Gibson and completed in 1913 the Guildhall is the finest secular gothic revival building in the country.

It was restored, modernised and reopened by the Lord Chancellor in 1989. What the present Lord Chancellor proposes is a disgrace, an example of needless destruction and waste which no other owner of a listed building, public or private, would be allowed to contemplate.

Whilst in no wise a priest of buildings in aspic, does not the run of Gothic revival deserve a saviour. The renovation is retaining some aspects of the old building but the disparaging comments about the Guildhall being "cluttered and gloomy" demonstrate some of its charm. Is this not a metaphor for our Constitution, or perhaps Gordon Broon? Who prefers airy and empty buildings without content, except for dull architects who fall in love with emptiness and rename it a shaping, a space and a symbol.

Who doubts that the grandiose Guildhall will outshine the worthies that sit in appeal? We shall see.