Keith Mitchell was obviously sufficiently nettled by my letter of July 6 to offer me what might be construed as a gratuitous insult, to which I beg a right of reply.

I am not sure what the “chattering classes” are, but from Mr Mitchell’s comments about me, I infer that they are negative people who make no positive contribution to society.

May I assure Mr Mitchell that I really cannot be bothered to chatter about him; life is far too busy. As for his question about what I would do if I found squatters in my home, I would have recourse to the law on trespass.

It is not easy to evict squatters under these circumstances but that is a problem with the law and, now that Mr. Mitchell’s party has been assisted into responsibility by the Liberal Democrats, perhaps they might revisit the law on trespass.

But Mr Mitchell’s tendentious question is really a smokescreen.

Most squatters take over property which has lain empty for a considerable time and do not lurk around corners in keen anticipation until homeowners have set off for their holidays.

Everyone in Oxford knows that there is an extreme shortage of accommodation, and, while I do not condone the actions of squatters, there are many boarded-up properties awaiting redevelopment or bought cynically by developers and allowed to moulder until a profit can be made (I am sure we all have our own favourite eyesore).

After all, we do not all enjoy enormous salaries and expense accounts.

Here is a constructive suggestion for Mr Mitchell. When I was a student at Oxford, one of the city’s unsung eccentric heroines, Lady Wheare, used to persuade the owners of unoccupied property to allow her to manage it and to rent it to students on a non-profit basis.

As a member of my school’s community service corps, I helped redecorate a number of spare bedrooms so that elderly people could benefit from renting them out. These were grass-roots initiatives and highly successful win-win solutions.

One final point about squatters: one very high profile right-wing journalist of my acquaintance was a member of the most (in)famous squat of all at 144, Piccadilly. Mr. Mitchell might do well to guard his tongue even in congenial company.

Like so many politicians, though, Mr. Mitchell did not address the real point of my original letter: the disrespect that I believe he has shown to the armed forces.

There are many young people from troubled backgrounds who earn self-respect by serving in HM Forces, but they have all been volunteers and have approached the recruiting agencies of their own accord.

The services achieve this success by making individuals feel valued members of a community which cares for them The idea of marching inconvenient people down to the army office is redolent of the 18th century, when each county fulfiled its quota of soldiers and sailors by combing them out of the jails. The army and navy professionals did not think much of that idea at the time either.

Perhaps Mr. Mitchell would be well-advised in future to register his target properly before firing off his ill-aimed salvoes.

Martin Roberts, Stone Close, Botley, Oxford