Catherine Ashton has had little foreign affairs experience. She was appointed a member of the British parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, as a life peer, ten years ago. She was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in Education, then for Constitutional Affairs, then at the new Ministry of Justice.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed her to his cabinet, as Leader of the House of Lords. Last year she was nominated as the UK’s member in the European Commission, where she picked up the trade portfolio. She holds the title Baroness Ashton of Upholland. Ultimately, the European Socialists gave her their full backing for the new EU post, to be the centre-left’s counterbalance to the centre-right EU President Herman Van Rompuy.