And now, for a change, good news to prove that people have a heart

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Tales of rags to riches, and in one case rags to parliamentary contender, surfaced yesterday as evidence that the Good Samaritan is still alive and well and living in both Cirencester and the King's Road, in London.

As the political debate over how to treat Britain's haves and have-nots continues, an old-fashioned story emerged of how a beauty queen turned matriarchal aristocrat, Lady Apsley, had rescued a homeless man - and his Alsatian dog.

The man, Oliver Lomasney, 25, and the dog, Ryan, were often noticed by Lady Apsley as the two sat together in the streets of Cirencester wrapped pathetically in ragged blankets. Lady Apsley, who lives on the nearby pounds 30m family estate, always gave him a pound as she passed, but the gesture never seemed to be enough. Curiously, and against the belief of the Home Office minister, David Maclean, Mr Lomasney was not aggressive nor Scottish.

After talking and finding him well-mannered, she went into action. Not exactly in line with Baroness Thatcher's wisdom that the Good Samaritan was only effective because he had some cash, Lady Apsley instead used her influence and contacts at an engineering firm to pull the man to safety.

Lady Apsley, 31, said: "I think the fact that I am titled and live in a big house makes it even more important for me to help someone in his position." Mr Lomasney was yesterday working on the Cirencester bypass. "I was very surprised that she even took the time to talk to me, let alone help."

Changing the perception that tramps and ladies do mix is the aim of a former tramp, Stephen Smith, who yesterday announced he wanted to sit in the House of Commons. If he wins the Wirral South by-election where he standing as the Justice Party candidate, he says he will offer his services to both Conservative or Labour as their Minister of the Gutter.

Mr Smith, 53, homeless on the streets of London for five years in the 1970s, said his decision was influenced by the present debate over beggars.

Mr Smith's own Lady Apsley was a 24-year-old German tourist. She saw him begging in the King's Road when he was extremely ill. They spoke and eventually married. "Meeting Hannelore [his wife] transformed my life," he said as he attacked Mr Maclean's comment that people chose a life of begging. "How can people be on the streets out of choice. That's a diabolical statement. I think it's time somebody stood up and made a noise about the number of homeless people."