In a profile published for The Guardian, Caroline Davies argues that the new European Union’s new High Representative For Foreign Affairs has a strong history of standing up for equality. In 2006 she was the first recipient of the Stonewall Politician of the Year award.

“Cathy Ashton, who was given a life peerage in 1999, has forged a successful political career serving both as leader of the House of Lords and lord president of the council before replacing Peter Mandelson as EU trade commissioner.

“The gay lobby group Stonewall voted her politician of the year in 2006 as minister responsible for human rights and civil justice policy at the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

“The former economics graduate from London University – now Lord Ashton of Upholland, after the town in west Lancashire where she was born – has held a variety of posts tackling inequality in business and established several bodies including the Employer Forum on Disability.

“Aged 53, a mother of two and stepmother of three, she was director of business in the community from 1983-89 and chaired the health authority in Hertfordshire from 1998 until 2001. The position of parliamentary undersecretary of state in the Department for Education and Skills followed, during which she took charge of Sure Start.”

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