Gay rights advocate to replace Mandelson in Brussels

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Baroness Ashton is to leave the Cabinet and replace Peter Mandelson as an EU Commissioner.

As Leader of the House of Lords, Cathy Ashton has been a vocal supporter of gay rights and has guided some key pieces of legislation through the upper chamber.

Just last week she appeared on the panel at an LGBT Labour fringe meeting at the party’s conference.

Stonewall today paid tribute to her work for gay and lesbian people.

“She has been an absolutely fantastic champion of equality, particularly since she became Leader of the House of Lords,” said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall.

“It’s been a privilege to work with Cathy on a range of issues and if she is as successful at building alliances in Brussels as she has been in London then she will do a very good job indeed.”

Baroness Ashton’s appointment as an EU Commissioner means that the Prime Minister has avoided a by-election that would have resulted if he had appointed an MP.

Cathy Ashton joined Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007.

From 1983-89 she was Director of Business in the Community working with business to tackle inequality, and established the Employers’ Forum on Disability, Opportunity Now, and the Windsor Fellowship.

In 1999 she was made a life peer and in 2004 she was appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

She became an Education Minister in 2001.

In 2005 she was voted House Magazine Minister of the Year and Channel 4 Peer of the Year. In 2006, she was voted Stonewall Politician of the Year.