Catherine Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, is a British Labour politician who, in 2009, became the European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Under the Lisbon Treaty, this post is combined with the post of Vice-President of the European Commission.
Her political career began in 1999 when she was created a Life Peer (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) by the Labour Government under which she took on a ministerial position (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State) in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001, and subsequently in the Department for Constitutional Affairs and Ministry of Justice. She became a Privy Councillor PC in May 2006.
Catherine Ashton was appointed Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Queen's Privy Council in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007. As well as Leader of the Lords, she held responsibility in the House of Lords for equalities issues. She also steered the Lisbon Treaty through the UK's upper chamber.
In 2008, she succeeded Peter Mandelson as Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission. In December 2009, she became the first person to take on the newly enlarged High Representative role for the EU as created by the Treaty of Lisbon.
Ashton graduated with a BSc in Sociology in 1977 from Bedford College, London (now part of Royal Holloway, University of London).