Matthew McKenna

Local Government Studies

Policy learning in times of failure: How English local government responds at times of central government intervention.   

Supervisors: Catherine Durose and Stephen Bates 

Matthew McKenna

Matthew is an ESRC funded doctoral candidate who is researching the relationship between policy failure and policy learning in the context of central-local government relations. To do so, he is conducting a comparative case study design focusing upon two cases of central government intervention into English local government. These interventions range from centrally mandated Best Value Inspections, Improvement Notices, Statutory Directions, statutory and none-statutory improvement measures. He is particularly interested in how local actors interpret central government interventions and in examining the practice of ‘doing improvement’.

Matthew is also a co-investigator on the multi-disciplinary research project “Whose responsibility is it? Socio-political perspectives on Antimicrobial Resistance”, funded by the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Global Innovation and the Institute for Advanced Studies. This project examines the views of national and international policy stakeholders in antimicrobial resistance (eg clinicians, managers, policy makers, politicians), with the aim to explore issues of how responsibility and accountability are managed in policy and clinical practice.

Research interests

  • British Politics
  • Governance
  • Interpretivism
  • Political elites
  • Ethnography. 


  • BA/BSc Combined History and Psychology (2i, Sunderland, 2016)
  • MA Public Policy & Governance (With Distinction, Manchester, 2017)
  • MA Social Research (With Distinction, Birmingham, 2020)


McKenna, M. G. and Gale, N. (forthcoming). Tensions within the Public Encounter: The case of balancing individual and population health risks. In Hupe, P. (eds) The politics of the public encounter: What happens when citizens meet the state. Edward Elgar.

McKenna, M. G. (2021). Policy Controversies and Political Blame Games, Political Studies Review. doi: 10.1177/1478929921990994.

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