It is as inevitable as the sunrise that politics will barge its way through the door soon enough and jolt the nation out of its temporarily dazed state of unity in adversity while blithely ignoring the private and much deeper grief of the families of the 29 miners killed in the Pike River Coal tragedy.

Some might say there has already been some knocking on that door in the form of two speeches by Jim Anderton in Parliament this week. The left's old war horse was not in the mood to join the chorus of praise for the West Coast's resilience at what fate might have in store for it.

That kind of sentiment has produced a miserable mythology which decrees the Coast must always suffer.

That is not good enough in Anderton's book. So he effectively served notice that he will putting his not inconsiderable weight behind efforts to find out why things went so dreadfully wrong at a mine which, as it has been open barely a year, should have had all the right equipment and safety practices.

Anderton seems to have made it his personal mission to end the life-and-death lottery that working in underground mines has entailed.

Doing so, moreover, would be the best possible tribute to those who died in the explosion.

Anderton cannot be accused of exploiting the catastrophe for selfish political motives.

For starters, his credentials as the voice of blue-collar workers such as miners are unquestioned. His statements in such circumstances carry huge moral suasion.

He also has nothing to gain politically. He is leaving Parliament at the next election, now no less than 12 months away.

Anderton assuming such a leadership role might suit others itching to join a battle which has all the ingredients needed to fuel a classic stoush between labour and capital, between political left and right.

Certainly some in the union movement might well see the mistakes at Pike River Coal as pay-back time for the humiliation the Combined Trade Unions incurred over The Hobbit.

Because it is workers who have paid the ultimate price, the rallying cry of "solidarity" has been much heard this week. Not for nothing did Phil Goff mention in his speech in Parliament that the Labour Party was born out of the mines and towns of the West Coast.

The Labour leader echoed some of Anderton's talk that this was an accident which should never have happened in this day and age.

But that was as far as Goff went. After a shaky victory in the Mana byelection, Goff would be highly vulnerable to charges of desperation should he start picking over the issue willy-nilly.

What must be most annoying for Goff - although he would never say so - is that the disaster, like the Christchurch earthquake, has given John Key yet another platform from which to project himself and National as no-fuss, capable managers of the country's interests.

With the bodies still in the mine shaft, Goff also knows there is still an awful lot of the necessary ritual of death yet to be played out across the six o'clock news before it is time to ask some hard questions.

Those questions are not going to provide reassuring answers.

As a British mining expert told the BBC, methane levels in the mine must have built up to levels between 5 and 15 per cent of the atmosphere, at which point the gas becomes explosive.

Either the warning systems were inadequate or were not working properly. Or if they were working, they were not being monitored properly. There are no other explanations.

But Goff will play it cautiously. While he might have been tempted to go after the company, his problem is that it is held in high esteem on the West Coast.

It has provided the one thing valued above all in a region which is an outdoor museum filled with rusting industrial artefacts from times long passed - full-time, permanent jobs.

That view might shift during the hearings of the Government-ordered commission of inquiry, whose membership and terms of reference should be approved by the Cabinet on Monday.

With powers to summon witnesses and subpoena documents, the commission should be able to at least ascertain whether concerns were raised about methane levels - an acknowledged problem during the mine's construction - and what was being done about it.

The target Goff will have in his sights will be Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson and what she or her department knew or did not know about what was going on at Pike River Coal.

So far, Wilkinson has been kept very much in the background. It is Key's show. And understandably so, given the magnitude.

It will probably remain Key's show. What will worry him is that Wilkinson's hands-off, laissez-faire approach to regulation and monitoring might have left National badly exposed.

Little appears to have emerged in concrete form from a public consultation exercise begun under Labour to improve "hazard management" in the underground mining industry.

Instead, Wilkinson ruled out re-instituting "check inspectors" who would be elected by fellow workers to keep an eye on safety standards.

Her department will institute its own inquiry - one of many which will start soon.

However, the major political focus will be on the formal commission of inquiry. It may have difficulty establishing exactly what happened.

It took the Cave Creek inquiry seven months to do its job, so the Pike River Coal inquiry may take a lot longer and might not report until after next year's election.

But it would be surprising if there were not revelations or embarrassments for someone on the way.