Upon the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, Perkins was appointed as a Shadow Minister in the Shadow Defence Team. He also campaigned for the UK to remain a member of the European Union ahead of the EU Referendum on 23 June 2016.
Perkins is son of V.F. Perkins and his wife Teresa. He has a sister, Polly and is the great-grandson of A. P. Herbert, Independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University (1935–1950). He attended Trinity Catholic School, Leamington Spa and Silverdale Comprehensive School in Sheffield.
Perkins worked in the private sector from 1987 until he was elected to Parliament in 2010. He was in IT Sales: consultant and then Regional Manager for the Prime Time Recruitment organisation. He then set up a rugby product business.
Perkins was a councillor for Rother Ward on Chesterfield Borough Council from 2003–2011. He was a Director of Families First Co-operative, a social enterprise that ran an early years nursery in Chesterfield, and set up the Chesterfield Flood Victims Appeal, which raised over £13,000 for victims of the floods in Chesterfield in 2007.
Perkins' defeat of Chesterfield's sitting Liberal Democrat MP, Paul Holmes, saw him overturn a majority of 3,000 to win by 549 votes despite a national swing against the Labour Party. Perkins was largely elected owing to retention of the existing Labour vote, as there was a 7.5% swing towards the Conservative party in the constituency with Labour making a net gain of 61 votes in comparison to 2005.
Following Perkins' election to Parliament in 2010, he asked a question in David Cameron's first post-election Prime Minister's Questions in the 2010 session. He backed David Miliband for the Labour leadership and was named by the Financial Times as one of the best six newcomers of the first 100 days of the 2010 parliament.
Under Ed Miliband, he became the first of the 2010 intake of new members to speak from the front bench when becoming a Shadow Education Minister in September 2010 under Andy Burnham. He was moved into the Shadow Business team as Shadow Minister for Enterprise and Small Business in 2011, under Chuka Umunna. As Shadow Business Minister he was responsible for Labour's policies on Access to Finance, Small Businesses, Regulation/ de-regulation, Insolvency, Procurement, Pubs and the High Street. He was elected to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee. Douglas Alexander appointed him one of three Labour Party Deputy Chairs in July 2014 for the 2015 General Election campaign alongside Gloria De Piero and Jonathan Ashworth. He had previously run Labour's by election campaign in Wythenshawe and Sale East. He also worked on by election campaigns in Corby, Bradford West and Eastleigh.
In parliament he has led Opposition Day debates for Labour on pub company regulation, Sunday trading laws for the Olympics, on the Deregulation Bill alongside Chi Onwurah. He has secured adjournment debates against Derbyshire Fire Station closures, that led to a u-turn on plans to close 18 Derbyshire fire stations, and against the sale of legal highs. Perkins proposed in 2016, via a 10-minute private members' bill, that "God Save the Queen" should cease to be the anthem used by English teams at international sporting fixtures. The second reading was due for 4 March, but has been delayed. Perkins was Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces in the Shadow Cabinet of Jeremy Corbyn, but resigned on 27 June 2016, along with many of his colleagues. He is the current chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pub Group and the Labour Friends of the Forces.
Perkins is married to Suzie (née Francis), who was born in Boythorpe, Chesterfield, and is a Councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council for the Holmebrook ward. They have 2 children, Lewis and Chloe Perkins.
A former Chesterfield, Sheffield Tigers RUFC and Derbyshire Rugby Union player, Perkins qualified as a rugby coach in 2006 and coached a junior team at Sheffield Tigers RUFC. He follows Sheffield United, Chesterfield FC and British Tennis. He is a friend of Jonny Marray, the British Tennis player who won the Wimbledon Men's Doubles title in 2012.