Marsden was educated at Stockport Grammar School, an independent school in the city of Stockport in Cheshire, followed by New College, Oxford where he attained a first-class degree in Modern History. He then went on to postgraduate studies at the Warburg Institute (part of the University of London) and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, being a Kennedy Scholar in Politics and International Relations.
Before entering Parliament he had been a tutor for the Open University since 1994, as well as a public affairs adviser to English Heritage and, for twelve years, the editor of History Today and New Socialist magazine.
Marsden first contested the seat of Blackpool South in 1992 and won it in 1997. Once elected to Parliament, Gordon served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Lord Irvine of Lairg in the Lord Chancellor's Department (2001–03), Tessa Jowell as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (2003–05) and John Denham as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and shadow communities secretary (2009–).
In 2003, he was made a Visiting Parliamentary Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford.
Gordon is a member of the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee and previously served on the Education and Skills Select Committee before it was dissolved in 2007.
He is Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Skills Group and of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans.
Gordon Marsden was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015.
Marsden is a member of the Fabian Society, of which he was chairman in 2000-1. He also served as Chair of the Young Fabians and now serves as a Trustee of Dartmouth Street, the building where the Society is based.
Marsden convened the first group of Labour MPs representing seaside and coastal towns. In 2007 Gordon was asked to chair a Manifesto Group for the Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Seaside and Coastal Towns.
In early 2009, Gordon was named as one of the Daily Telegraph's expenses "saints", due to the low levels of his expenses claims. When Parliament is sitting he commutes to London from his second home in Brighton, while his main residency is in South Shore, Blackpool in his constituency where he has been registered for over 20 years.