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By Michael Holden and Elizabeth Piper
LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was clinging to power on Wednesday, gravely wounded by the resignation of ministers who said he was not fit to govern and with a growing number of lawmakers calling for him to go.
Johnson's finance and health secretaries quit on Tuesday, along with several in more junior roles, saying they could no longer stay in government after the latest in a series of scandals blighted his administration.
With mounting calls for Johnson to go, he showed his determination to stay in office by appointing businessman and education minister Nadhim Zahawi as his new finance minister, and filling some of the other vacancies.
Zahawi told reporters he would look at all options to rebuild and grow the struggling economy and tame surging inflation, when asked if he would cut taxes such as corporation tax.
The level of hostility Johnson faces within his party will be laid bare later on Wednesday when he appears in parliament for his weekly question session, and before the chairs of select committees for a scheduled two-hour grilling.
"I suspect we will have to drag him kicking and screaming from Downing Street," one Conservative lawmaker told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "But if we have to do it that way then we will."
Johnson, a former journalist and London mayor who became the face of Britain's departure from the European Union, won a landslide election victory in 2019 before taking a combative and often chaotic approach to governing.
His leadership has been mired in scandals and missteps over the last few months, with the prime minister fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown laws and a damning report published about the behavior of officials at his Downing Street office who breached their own lockdown rules.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defence of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle a cost-of-living crisis, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
The Times of London newspaper said Johnson's "serial dishonesty" was "utterly corrosive" of effective government.
"Every day that he remains deepens the sense of chaos," it said. "For the good of the country, he should go."
The latest bout of drama at the heart of British power comes as the economy deteriorates rapidly, with some economists warning that the country could tip into recession.
The latest scandal saw Johnson apologizing for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in party welfare and discipline, even after being briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct.
Downing Street's narrative changed several times over what the prime minister knew of the past behavior of that politician, who was forced to resign, and when he knew it.
That prompted Rishi Sunak to quit as chancellor of the exchequer - the finance minister - and Sajid Javid to resign as health secretary, while ten others left their junior ministerial or envoy roles.
"It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership - and you have therefore lost my confidence too," Javid said in his resignation letter.
Several of the ministers cited Johnson's lack of judgement, standards, and inability to tell the truth.
A snap YouGov poll found 69 percent of Britons thought Johnson should step down as prime minister but for the time being the remainder of his top ministerial team offered their backing.
"I fully support the prime minister," Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said. "I am sorry to see good colleagues resign, but we have a big job of work to do."
A month ago, Johnson survived a confidence vote of Conservative Party lawmakers, and party rules mean he cannot face another such challenge for a year.
However, some lawmakers are seeking to change those rules, while he is also under investigation by a parliamentary committee over whether he lied to parliament about COVID-19 lockdown breaches.
Nominations are expected to open on Wednesday for the executive of the so-called 1922 Committee that sets the rules for leadership confidence votes. Johnson critics hope to elect enough people to change the rules to allow another such vote before the 12-month grace period allows.
Were Johnson to go, the process to replace him could take a couple of months.
Only two-and-a-half years ago, the ebullient Johnson won a huge parliamentary majority on a promise to sort out Britain's exit from the European Union after years of bitter wrangling.
But since then, his initial handling of the pandemic was widely criticized and the government has lurched from one predicament to another.
Although Johnson won wider plaudits for his support of Ukraine, a lift in his personal poll ratings did not last. His Conservatives trail the opposition Labour Party and his own popularity ratings are at all-time lows.
Johnson's combative approach towards the European Union has also weighed on the pound, exacerbating inflation which is forecast to surpass 11 percent.
"After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failure, it's clear that this government is now collapsing," Labour leader Keir Starmer said.
(Writing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton, editing by Rosalba O'Brien)
By Brendan O'Brien and Tom Polansek
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (Reuters) - The man accused of opening fire on a July Fourth parade near Chicago was charged on Tuesday with seven counts of murder, as police revealed they had reported him as posing a "clear and present danger" after alleged threats to his family in 2019.
Robert E. Crimo III, 21, is suspected of shooting his victims from a sniper's perch on a rooftop above the parade in the suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.
He would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted, Illinois state attorney Eric Reinhart said.
Reinhart said the first-degree murder charges would be followed by "dozens of more charges" and that he would ask that Crimo remain held in custody without bail at the suspect's first court appearance, scheduled for Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear if Crimo had a lawyer.
Crimo had planned the attack for weeks, officials said on Tuesday.
They said he fired more than 70 rounds at random into the crowd watching Monday's parade, and that he was dressed in women's clothes to help conceal his identity and blend in with the panic-stricken crowd as he fled.
"He blended right in with everybody else as they were running around, almost as if he was an innocent spectator as well," said Sergeant Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Sheriff's office, adding that the suspect has distinctive facial tattoos.
In addition to the seven victims killed by gunfire, more than three dozen people were treated in hospitals for gunshot wounds and other injuries.
Covelli said Crimo had two previous encounters with law enforcement - an April 2019 emergency-911 call reporting that he had attempted suicide and another in September of that year regarding alleged threats "to kill everyone" that he had directed at family members.
Police responding to the second incident seized a collection of 16 knives, a dagger and a sword amassed by Crimo in his home, though no arrest was made as authorities at the time lacked probable cause to take him into custody, Covelli said.
"There were no complaints that were signed by any of the victims," Covelli said.
But a state "red flag" system, designed to allow police to seek a court order to seize weapons from people who are deemed to present a danger to themselves or others, appeared to have broken down.
Among those killed in Monday's attack were Nicholas Toledo, a grandfather from Mexico in his 70s celebrating with his family among the flag-waving crowds, and Jacki Sundheim, a teacher at a nearby synagogue.
The shooting took place in a neighborhood with a large Jewish population, but police had no immediate evidence of any anti-Semitic or racist basis. Investigators were reviewing videos Crimo had posted on social media containing violent imagery.
The suspect used a high-powered rifle for the attack, similar to an AR-15, which he dropped at the scene.
He had a similar rifle in his mother's car, which he was driving when police took him into custody, and owned other guns, all of which were bought legally in Illinois, officials said.
In all, Crimo had purchased five firearms, including rifles and pistols.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the community of 30,000 was in shock
"This tragedy should have never arrived at our doorsteps," she told NBC News. "As a small town, everybody knows somebody who was affected by this directly and, of course, we are all still reeling."
President Joe Biden ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff in mourning until sunset on Saturday.
A recent string of deadly mass shootings, including an attack in which 19 school children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, just 10 days after 10 people were slain in a supermarket in a predominately Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, has renewed debate about gun safety in America.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month asserted a constitutional right to carry weapons in public in a ruling that made it easier for pro-gun groups to overturn modern gun regulations. It has since thrown out a lower court ruling upholding Maryland's ban on assault weapons.
Congress last month passed its first major federal gun reform in three decades, providing federal funding to states that administer "red flag" laws.
The law does not ban sales of assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines but does take some steps on background checks by allowing access to information on significant crimes committed by juveniles.
Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, said she knew the suspect when he was a little boy and a Cub Scout and she was a Cub Scout leader.
"What happened? How did somebody become this angry, this hateful?" she said. "Our nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the murder of dozens of people with legally obtained guns."
The suspect's father, Bob Crimo, ran Bob's Pantry and Deli in Highland Park for at least 18 years, according to a Chicago Tribune business profile. Bob Crimo closed the deli in 2019 before he unsuccessfully ran against Rotering for mayor.
Online social media posts written by the suspect or under his rapper alias, "Awake The Rapper," often depicted violent images or messages.
One music video posted to YouTube under Awake The Rapper showed drawings of a stick figure holding a rifle in front of another figure spread on the ground.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien and Tom Polansek; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Jonathan Allen, Tyler Clifford, Christopher Gallagher, Christopher Walljasper and Doina Chiacu; writing by Jonathan Allen and Steve Gorman; editing by Aurora Ellis and Bill Berkrot)