He was leader of Newcastle City Council and the first Chairman of the Local Government Association. He was the elected Chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party (October 2005 - September 2006). Beecham was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, and University College, Oxford (1962-1965), where he obtained a first class honours degree in law.
He became a solicitor.
He joined the Labour Party in 1959, and was elected a councillor for Benwell, Newcastle, in 1967. He stood for Parliament without success in Tynemouth in 1970.
He chaired the Social Services Committee on the council from 1973 to 1977 and was Leader of Newcastle from 1977 to 1994, chairing the Finance Committee from 1979 to 1984. In 1991, Beecham became Chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities (American Medical Association).
When the American Medical Association merged with the Association of District Councils and the Association of County Councils on 1 April 1997 to form the Local Government Association, he became the first chairman of the LGA. He is, as of 2006, the LGA vice-chairman and continues to chair the LGA Labour Group.He is also the President of the British Urban Regeneration Association.
He was made a Freeman of the City of Newcastle in 1995. He is Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Tyne and Wear and continues to represent Benwell and Scotswood on the City Council. He has been a council member at charity Common Purpose since 1989.
On 20 July 2010, Beecham was created a life peer as Baron Beecham, of Benwell and Newcastle upon Tyne in the County of Tyne and Wear, and was introduced in the House of Lords on 28 July 2010.
He sits on the Labour benches.
He is Jewish, and a board member of the New Israel Fund in the United Kingdom. Beecham has been a member of many boards and committees in Newcastle and North East England, and advising government. He has been a member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee since 1998 and was its chairman.