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Profile: Baroness Cathy Ashton

2 min

Britain’s Baroness Cathy Ashton has been appointed as Europe's first High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs. Known for quietly "getting on with the job", Ashton has been EU trade commissioner for the past year.



Baroness Cathy Ashton is a little-known figure in her native UK and her appointment as Europe's first High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs will come as a surprise to many in her home country.

Born in Lancashire in the north west of England, Baroness Ashton, who studied economics at the University of London, started her political activity in the 1970s with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), of which she subsequently became vice-chair.

During the 1980s and 90s she worked to tackle inequality in business, chaired a county health authority and became head of the National Council for One Parent Families.

Baroness Ashton, who is married to pollster Peter Kellner with whom she has two children and three step children, was made a life peer of the House of Lords in 1999 by then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

While sitting in the House of Lords, she rose through the ministerial ranks, starting off in the Department of Education and then going on to the Ministry for Constitutional Affairs.

Current Prime Minister Gordon Brown made Baroness Ashton Leader of the House of Lords where she was responsible for steering the Lisbon Treaty through the British Parliament's upper chamber.

In her current position as EU Trade Commissioner (fellow British peer Lord Mandelson held this position before he returned to front-line British politics as the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) she has led negotiations with China and other major economies and is a standard bearer for free trade.


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