Baroness Cathy's key role on world stage

A Wiganer has become one of the most powerful people in the world.

Baroness Cathy Ashton, a former Up Holland Grammar School pupil, is the European Union's first representative for Foreign Affairs and security.

Commentators say that the position, which will see her at the high table with the planet's major heads of state, is in fact a more important and influential one than that of the European Union presidency that was denied to Tony Blair and instead awarded to Belgian

Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy.

Born and raised by parents Harold and Clare in the Wigan and Up Holland area, Baroness Ashton was a regular visitor to the borough before she took over Peter Mandelson's European commissioner role when he returned to British politics last year.

The 53-year-old mum-of-two said: "Over the next few months and years I aim to show I am the best person for this job.

"I think for quite a few people they would say I am the best for the job and I was chosen because I am. I hope that my particular set of skills will show that I am the best choice."

Makerfield MP Ian McCartney, said: "She is a Wigan girl who has really made good. Cathy is quiet but effective in her job and she makes good decisions under pressure.

"She is supportive of working people and has never forgotten her roots."

Catherine Margaret Ashton was born in March 1956 and attended Up Holland Grammar (now Winstanley College) and graduated from London University in 1977 with the BSc. She has been married to Peter Kellner for 21 years and is former administration secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

She was director of public affairs for Business in the Community between 1983 and 1989 and a freelance policy adviser between 1989 and 1998. In 2001, Ashton was made parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department for Education and Skills. Baroness Ashton was appointed Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in June 2007.