The fundraising campaign to buy the Royal National Lifeboat Institution a new life-saving hovercraft called The Flying Farage has hit its £100,000 target.
But the fundraiser’s organiser, Simon Harris, has said it may not be practical to name any vessel after the right-wing political figure and GB News presenter Nigel Farage after all.
The GoFundMe page has attracted gifts totalling £117,000 from 8,200 donors since it launched at the beginning of the month and has increased its target to £150,000.
Harris set up the page after Farage accused the RNLI of being “a taxi service for illegal immigration” for rescuing people who got into trouble while attempting to enter the UK across the English channel.
In an update on the page announcing that the fundraiser had hit its initial target, Harris said the response had been incredible and that donations were still coming in.
“At this rate, we could end up taking this incredible organisation out on a shopping spree,” he wrote.
But, Harris said, following feedback from donors and from RNLI volunteers, he had concluded naming the vessel The Flying Farage was “going to be tricky”.
He said: “For starters, there is a risk that Nigel will just sit back and bask in the glory of his named vessel being out saving lives, and there’s also the fact that I’ve been told by serving volunteers in no uncertain terms that it’s just generally a terrible idea.”
But he said there was “nothing to stop us being a little more subtle with the name” and suggested calling the vessel The Flying Milkshake, apparently in reference to a trend in 2019 where several protesters filming themselves throwing milkshake at right-wing and far-right political figures such as Farage and Tommy Robinson, then leader of the English Defence League.
Harris also said that, having spoken to the RNLI, it “might not be practical” for the charity to use the money to buy a hovercraft as they were useful only in areas with large mudflats such as Southend or Morecambe, rather than on the English Channel, where it “would be far better to spend the cash on an in-shore vessel” costing about £90,000.
“My contact will be letting me know shortly if any of the south coast stations will be looking for one of these or a similarly major piece of kit within the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.
He said how the money was spent would ultimately be at the discretion of the RNLI.
In his initial appeal for funds on the page, Harris had said that naming the vessel after Farage “would be incredibly appropriate due to Mr Farage taking such an active interest in the RNLI’s activities right now”.
Farage’s criticisms and the charity’s own response to his comments, in which it shared a video of its work rescuing migrants and emphasised its mission to “save every life at sea”, appeared to be partly responsible for a 2,000 per cent increase in donations.
In response to the fundraiser, an RNLI spokesperson said: "We are incredibly grateful for the donations we receive to enable us to continue saving lives at sea and the outpouring of support we've received recently has been overwhelming.
"It is so important that we have the right lifesaving assets in the right locations to meet the demands of that stretch of coastline. We must always ensure the kind donations we receive are spent wisely to ensure we can save lives as effectively as possible."
The charity highlighted other assets it needed to help keep its services running, aside from lifeboats and hovercraft, such as volunteer kit, training and fuel for its lifeboats.
At the end of last month a volunteer crew member was allegedly verbally abused by two members of the public at the charity’s Tower Lifeboat station, under Waterloo Bridge on the north side of the River Thames.