EDITORIAL: PM faces tough test with Macfarlane defection

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull's honeymoon appears over with Groom MP Ian Macfarlane's shock defection.

Mr Macfarlane has left the Liberal Party, chasing a possible leadership position with the Nationals.

The move was orchestrated by senior government ministers, including Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Since toppling Tony Abbott in September's leadership spill, Mr Turnbull has spoken of a united government that would not be undermined by backroom deals.

Those claims don't hold much weight with Mr Macfarlane's defection and speculation more MPs will follow.

But the move by the Groom MP does not come as a surprise.

He lost his high-profile Science and Industry portfolio in Mr Turnbull's cabinet reshuffle and, despite pledging his support to the new Prime Minister, was clearly bitter over his dumping.

Only last month he talked of retirement.

It will be interesting to watch the impact Mr Macfarlane's defection has on Mr Turnbull's leadership and the support of those in his party.

If more follow, it will without a doubt be Mr Turnbull's toughest test since he took the nation's top job.

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