The National:

This is an excerpt from this week's Behind the Headlines newsletter, which you can receive for free every Friday by clicking here. This week our newsletter comes from content editor Xander Elliards. 

IT’S that time of year again. The Edinburgh Fringe is well underway and – in what is surely one of the most tedious developments of recent years – politicians are back on the stage trying to appear like relaxed people-of-the-people.

Penny Mordaunt, Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford, Humza Yousaf, Anas Sarwar, Alex Salmond and David Davis together, Harriet Harman, Ed Davey, Andy Burnham. The list of political figures appearing at the festival seems to get bigger every year.

And as the list grows and grows so does the number of spaces to fill – which will probably explain Wes Streeting’s headline slot on Monday.

Labour’s shadow health secretary appeared in front of a crowd that filled perhaps one-third of the seats at Iain Dale’s All Talk show – a world away from the baffling news that Penny Mordaunt’s appearance was so popular they had to book a bigger venue.

He spoke well to be fair, about a range of topics from the struggle he faced growing up in poverty and the support of his family to why he wants Keir Starmer to lead the UK Government (shocker). That was perhaps to be expected from someone considered one of Labour’s strongest communicators.

However, Streeting tripped over his words after the show when asked why he had seen fit to take an unprompted pop at The National while on stage.

After sarcastically saying he thought Humza Yousaf had done a stellar job as Scottish health secretary, Streeting pivoted to talking about how he would probably make the front page of The National under the headline: “Yousaf a great health secretary, Streeting says.”

He then took a few more shots at this paper – trotting out the “SNP Pravda” line for one.

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Streeting was asked afterwards if his position meant any Scottish Labour politicians who had written in our pages should be cautioned or sanctioned by the party.

He said: “No, look, I, err, look, I, err, I, I, I, poke fun at The National because I think that, you know, it is, a paper that is SNP come what may.”

Asked if his opinion was formed after having read The National often, Streeting said he had been reading “in recent days because you’ve been popping up in my Google alerts”.

That will probably be because last week we reported on Streeting’s (renewed) calls for the Tories to make greater use of “private sector capacity” in the NHS.

“The Conservatives are failing to make use of private sector capacity and patients are paying the price,” he had said.

The National: Wes Streeting (left) with Michael Shanks and Jackie Baillie while campaigning in Rutherglen and Hamilton WestWes Streeting (left) with Michael Shanks and Jackie Baillie while campaigning in Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Image: Twitter/Rutherglen CLP)

Streeting then went to help out in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where Labour candidate Michael Shanks is running an extraordinary campaign which has seen him distance himself from his own party on just about everything, from Brexit to benefits.

Afterwards, the SNP pushed Shanks on whether he agreed with Streeting’s calls for greater private capacity in the NHS. As yet, it’s just about the only Labour policy he hasn’t spoken out against.