THE wife of Malcolm Turnbull has downplayed claims by Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt that a dinner between Mr Turnbull and Clive Palmer was part of a plot to overthrow Tony Abbott as Australia' Prime Minister.

Lucy Turnbull told the ABC's Q*A program the dinner had been 'completely miscast'.

Mrs Turnbull said her husband her told her  he was coming down "with the most desperate dose of the flu" and was heading out for some "spicy soup" before an early night.

She assumed her husband was in bed by 7pm, but he texted her early the next morning to say "Clive came along" to dinner.

"It was completely random [and] spontaneous," she said.

"It was completely miscast and I think it actually shows - the story very clearly - that there isn't nearly enough conviviality in Parliament between people across the aisle."

Mr Bolt seized on the dinner date to ask Mr Abbott whether Mr Turnbull was angling for his job, during a television interview.

He later wrote in his column that Mr Turnbull's dinner with Mr Palmer was designed to send an "unmistakable message" to Liberal MPs - "replace Abbott with Turnbull as prime minister and maybe Palmer will play ball".

Mr Turnbull launched an extraordinary attack on Mr Bolt yesterday, describing the piece as 'deranged' 'bordering on demented'.

That in turn prompted criticism from within his own party.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, a long-time opponent of Mr Turnbull, described the response as "unwise", "inappropriate" and "too strident".

"I thought that Malcolm's response was too strident, I thought it was inappropriate, it was unwise to do and I think it's just kicked the whole thing along.

"Andrew is entitled to his opinions, I think he is a very principled man.

"Malcolm I just think went a bit too heavy today."



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