The time is not right for Labour to have a woman leading the party, Andy Burnham suggested today.
Asked whether it would be "great" to have a woman leader, Burnham replied: "When the time is right, when the right leader comes along".
His answer, given during a hustings debate on BBC Radio 5 live this morning, was met by surprise from his rivals Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
Pressed by Cooper on when he thought the time would be right, he replied: "It could be now. It could be in the future. Who knows?"
Burnham's latest stumble comes as he struggles to win back support from the left-wing frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking at a campaign rally last night, Burnham adopted a notably more aggressive class-based attack against the Tories, claiming that he would "take on these Bullingdon boys" and "beat them".
He added: "I expect to be taking on Mr Gideon George Osborne from the despatch box in a few years, and I'll show him a real northern powerhouse".
Burnham also rowed back on his previous attacks against the legitimacy of a Corbyn victory.
His campaign had previously suggested there were "thousands" of Tories who had infiltrated the leadership election and suggested he could mount a legal challenge against a Corbyn win.
However, when pressed on the issue this morning he insisted he had faith in the process and would not mount a legal challenge against the result "under all circumstances".
Burnham has continually come under attack during this campaign for allegedly "flip-flopping" on issues, most notably on his wavering opposition to the welfare bill.
Burnham had initially backed the government's welfare cuts, before saying he opposed the proposed bill, before finally abstaining on it.
Speaking at his rally last night, Burnham attacked Iain Duncan Smith for "terrorising" disabled people with welfare cuts, only to be heckled from the audience for abstaining.
Burnham did receive some support from former deputy prime minister John Prescott at last night's rally, however.
"You can trust that what he says is what he says," Prescott told the audience.