When I saw the headlines claiming that Andy Burnham had pledged to renationalise the railways, I initially thought that may well have been the moment that he clinched the Labour leadership. If you think about a typical Labour member who is genuinely wavering between Jeremy Corbyn and the "mainstream" candidates, what he or she is crying out for is some red meat from a candidate deemed by conventional wisdom to be somewhat less "unelectable" than Corbyn. Renationalising the railways looked like a masterstroke - it would be a policy dripping in symbolism for the left, but wouldn't actually diverge from public opinion in Middle England. It wouldn't even be especially radical - it was official Labour policy under John Smith in 1993/94, and would represent only a very modest reversal of the huge programme of privatisation undertaken by the Thatcher and Major (and indeed Blair) governments.
But it turns out that Burnham wasn't proposing renationalisation at all. He was simply reaffirming the Ed Miliband policy of allowing the public sector to compete against the private sector for individual rail franchises, as and when they come up. What he did do, of course, was deliberately use a form of words which he knew would be misinterpreted as a commitment to renationalisation, in the hope of generating headlines that would win over left-wing waverers in a cost-free way.
In a nutshell, what Burnham has just done is a prime example of the insincerity and doublespeak that has driven people to consider Corbyn in the first place. It'll be fascinating to see whether he's done it subtly enough to get away with it this time, or whether he's simply dug a deeper hole for himself.
Coming up tomorrow : Burnham calls for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes*
* In a mock trial to be held at a school for educational purposes.