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Ashton in media glare

Gavin Hewitt | 13:39 UK time, Monday, 11 January 2010

Catherine Ashton at hearing in European Parliament, Brussels,11 Jan 10Catherine Ashton swept into the European Parliament to enormous attention. She could never before have faced such a session. A packed chamber. Standing room only. Scores of camera crews.

Baroness Ashton opened by saying there was a call around the world for greater European engagement. We have to answer that call, she said, and ensure that when we speak our voices are heard.

Early questions were inward-looking, obsessed with structure.

Later she was asked about her former membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Did she still support unilateral CND? When did she change her mind? What was relevant in the 1970s, she said, was not relevant in 2010.

She was later asked whether she had supported the Iraq war. She said she had been a member of the British goverment and "we are where we are".

The questions were mainly respectful. She came across as well briefed, fluent but cautious. So far there has been no real sense of what she'll do with her power.

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