You don’t have to be British to drown, and your boat doesn’t have to be British to sink. For some, though, you do have to be British to benefit from the life-saving expertise of the RNLI…

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The RNLI is using two per cent of its funds on overseas projects aimed at preventing children from drowning. How dare they. British donations to this British charity should save British lives, and only British lives. Let Johnny Foreigner look after his own, and if he can’t look after them, let him bally well recover their bodies from the water and bury them. Thank goodness for those brave newspapermen and women who revealed this scandal to the world.

Except, of course, preventing deaths in the water is hardly a scandal. Especially when you’re a charity whose job it is to, um, prevent deaths in the water…

Neither was there any real “revelation” involved in the newspaper reports. The RNLI publishes its accounts (as it is required to do), showing exactly where its money goes. It has a whole section on its website giving information about its overseas projects too, for any who care to take a look.

It’s not even as if there’s anything particularly revelationary about the RNLI operating overseas. In fact (as the charity notes), this falls well within the mission view established by founder Sir William Hillary, who said the RNLI should “extend our views from our own immediate coasts, to the most remote quarters of the globe, and to every neighbouring state”.

The newspaper reports critical of the RNLI went heavy on the fact that the charity’s overseas projects were continuing while jobs were being cut in the UK. Perhaps there was an assumption that, if the RNLI cut those projects, some jobs could be saved. Possible, but unlikely. And then what? Withdraw a couple of lifeboats in order to keep a few more people in offices? Now that really would be a scandal.

Some donors were so outraged that the RNLI was daring to save non-British lives that they stopped their donations to the charity. They felt misled, apparently. But then, there will always be some obnoxious tits who were born with a humanity deficit, or are simply too stupid to know better. The sums are not too difficult; if 2p from every pound goes overseas, that means 98p stays at home – so who is it hurting most to stop donating? Overall, in fact, donations actually went up. And the RNLI did a sterling job of disarming criticism by publishing its own robust and detailed statement.

Water, drowning, peril at sea… these things don’t have any notion of borders or nationality. And the RNLI crews don’t ask questions about who they are going to save when they set out on a rescue mission that they might not come back from. Good thing too – imagine being in the teeth of a gale, battling to save your vessel and your crew, only to see a lifeboat turning away because you’re flying the wrong flag.

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